Racist? I’m not a racist!
Year Released : 2017
Starring : Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott
Hello again all, it’s been a while hasn’t it? The reason for my lengthy break is due to moving home again recently and not having access to the internet. This means that I haven’t been able to scour Netflix or other sources for less-well-known films, and I’ve had to wait until I got a day off from work when I had nothing planned to be able to sit and write a review. Please note that I still haven’t got broadband at my new house and it doesn’t get installed until Friday, but after that I’m going to try to do a lot of reviews in a short space of time.
But anyway, onto the review.
“Denial” is a film that has been on my Youtube playlist of “Films I want to watch” for a long time, but even then I was genuinely surprised that it got a cinema release in my native UK, but I certainly wasn’t complaining and it gives me a chance to review a new film. It was also surprisingly popular at Leicester Square for a film that’s not well advertised, so I was even contemplating not reviewing it for the site, but I decided to go with it anyway as I don’t think it’ll be a film that the majority will know.
This became the 18th film I saw at the cinema in 2017, and only the second that I’m considering for my Top Ten at the end of the year (I’m currently at 21 for the year), that’s how much I liked it.
Back in the early nineties there was a war of words between historians Deborah Lipstadt (Weisz) and David Irving (Spall) in relation to whether the holocaust really happened. Irving confronts Lipstadt at a presentation she is giving, and later starts legal proceedings against her due to comments made about him in her book. Weisz spends her time defending herself from not only the press and the London based survivors of the holocaust, all whilst trying to find the proof for her legal team, headed by Anthony Julius (Scott) that Irving is what he appears, a Hitler-sympathiser that is trying to embarrass the Jewish people rather than just another racist.
The case starts with Irving representing himself, and over the subsequent weeks Lipstadt has to prove that Irving has lied on numerous occasions, therefore meaning that what was said was not libellous.
Why is it good?
I’m going to start off with arguably my favourite part of the film and that is the portrayal of the characters. Each actor puts in a great performance of their respective characters, but the stand out character is clearly David Irving, the antagonist. It makes you really dislike Irving as a person, and much like the priests in “Spotlight”, he doesn’t seem to believe what he is doing or saying is wrong. There is a section in which a part of his diary is read out to the court and how he has taught his daughter numerous racist insults, and yet he doesn’t think that he has done anything wrong, and despite hearing what he has just written in his own words, he speaks with all honesty when he utters “I’m not a racist”. You actually believe that he believes that, even though all of the evidence points to the contrary.
I’d be really curious to see what Irving himself thinks of the portrayal of him in the film.
Make no mistake, this is not a film that will gauge the excitement that a lot of other courtroom dramas have in the past, but it is one that builds itself up effectively. Such simple scenes, such as one set in the camp at Auschwitz, give you a real feeling for the wider scale of things. It is a court case that has true implications world-wide instead of just a small scale issue that similar films focus on.
The subtlety in this film is it’s key attraction, with such simple things helping you build an idea of the character, and one such example of this is right at the end when the court case is over and Irving goes to shake the hands of the opposing side, and they all walk off in disgust. This is an excellent portrayal of what would be a realistic scenario as, if you’d heard a person being racist on such a regular basis for the better part of three months, you’d be very disinclined to shake their hand, regardless of whether you won or not. You can just tell that they all just want to tell him exactly what they think of him, but the simple refusal of a handshake would tell him more than several well-chosen words ever could.
I’ve always struggled with talking about films that I like on here as it’s hard to put into words why I view it with esteem, whereas criticising films is very easy. I’m not going to sit here and claim that this is a brilliant film, because it isn’t quite at that level. It is however a very decent courtroom drama and whilst I will probably never go out of my way to watch it again, it’s one that I would recommend you watch if you get the chance.
If “Denial” is at a cinema near you then I would definitely recommend you spend ninety minutes of your time to watch it.
“Denial” is a very good film that focuses on the characters in a courtroom situation, and the fight for the truth, but what I liked about “Denial” is that it shows that the truth is subjective, and this is what makes Irving a very dislikeable antagonist. It’s simple, yet impactful storytelling.
Don’t go into it expecting a twisting plot that leaves you on the edge of your seat, it’s not that in the slightest. What it is however is a movie that will get you emotionally invested and on some levels very angry. I won’t claim to know the ins and outs of the whole case, afterall, I didn’t even know that this was a real case until the film had began, but it got me far more engaged that a lot of similar films did.
This is film-making done right, and whilst it’s nowhere near earning the “perfect” stamp, it’s definitely “approved”.