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Denial: Movie Review

Movieguide Magazine


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Denial is a courtroom drama about a 1999 libel case in London when an infamous Holocaust denier sues an American Jewish scholar, who dismissed the man’s work in one of her books. It's a compelling courtroom drama with a strong moral worldview, but some brief foul language and references to the mass murder of Jews and other people warrant caution for older children.

The movie begins with Holocaust researcher Deborah Lipstadt giving a college lecture in Atlanta in 1994 about her latest book, which discussed Holocaust deniers. David Irving, a notorious Holocaust denier from Britain, tries to disrupt her lecture while two of his friends videotape their confrontation.

Toward the end of 1996, Irving sues Deborah for libel in a London court. He's upset by her dismissal of his work that she referenced in her book. Irving claims she's lying about his own research while unfairly attacking his own competence as a historian.

Can Deborah help her lawyers find a roundabout way to honor the testimony of the survivors? Will she be able to deny her own ego, which urges her to go up on the witness stand anyway? Can she turn around the opinion of those who say she shouldn’t have given Irving a platform? Finally, when the judge throws them a curveball during the trial, can they find a way to limit or overcome the damage?

Denial is a compelling courtroom drama, though some of the acting, direction and drama could have been better, more concise, and more powerful. That said, an eerie visit to Auschwitz and the scenes with Deborah and her barrister, played by Rachel Weisz and Tom Wilkinson, are absolutely riveting.

Best of all, the movie provides a strong defense for the basic facts surrounding the Holocaust and especially for the mass murders that occurred at Auschwitz. The judge in the case firmly ruled that the defense’s case was “substantially true” and that Irving had deliberately and falsely manipulated facts to let Adolf Hitler and his minions off the hook and to support Irving’s own Anti-Semitic, racist views. In just one example, Irving claims that one major gas chamber was really used by German soldiers for showering but Deborah and her lawyers prove the gas chamber’s location was two miles from the German barracks.

Some foul language and references to the murder of Jews during World War II warrant caution for older children. Otherwise, Denial is an important, highly watchable movie setting the historical record straight.

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MOVIEGUIDE® was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ted Baehr, past president of the Episcopal Radio & Television Foundation and former director of the Television Center at the City University of New York. MOVIEGUIDE® is affiliated with the Christian Film & Television Commission® ministry (CFTVC). Both MOVIEGUIDE® and CFTVC are dedicated to redeeming the values of the entertainment industry, according to biblical principles, by influencing industry executives and artists and by informing and educating the public about the influence of the entertainment media and about how to train their families to become