The subject matter lends itself to a great film, but it needed to be approached differently.
Denial struggles to penetrate a very difficult topic. Any film about the holocaust will need to approach the subject in a cautious way. Not only does it need to be perfect but it needs to be accurate and compelling at the same time.
The film concerns the real lawsuit filed against Professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), by David Irving (Timothy Spall) for libel. Lipstadt accuses Irving of denying the holocaust, something he himself denies, and looks to prove that Lipstadt’s comments were defamatory in a court if law.
Denial takes far too much caution in its storytelling. It doesn’t dive deep enough into individual’s feelings, it merely scratches the surface and hopes that each character’s emotion emanates from their acting ability and not the words written on paper. Particularly Rachel Weisz; Her performance is purely not compelling enough to pass off the anger and determination her character needs to show, her true reason for standing against this horrific man. Timothy Spall however, creates an absolutely vile portrayal of David Irving, in a disgustingly magnificent performance. Very rarely do performers pull off villain as well as Spall does Irving, but in reality Spall manages to crete an epitome of evil.
It is a very impressive performance, and centralising around David Irving would have changed the films complexity in its favour, though perhaps not the box office. By focusing on Lipstadt, with Rachel Weisz not at her best, it ends up sitting very ‘middle of the road;’ Something stylistic changes could have improved vastly. Even focusing on the team of lawyers vs. Irving would have supplied a more riveting plot line. The subject matter lends itself to a great film, but it needed to be approached differently.
Without taking a firmer stance as a dark piece of cinema Denial was never going to reach the tall heights it could have otherwise. Yet it is worth the watch just to witness how vile Timothy Spall can make himself seem.