Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Tread with care, this is a shrine
In the interests of full disclosure, let me begin by saying that I was formally trained as a historian, spent a great deal of time studying the Third Reich and despise David Irving and his fellow pseudo-historians that twist facts into supporting a pre-conceived theory.
I therefore approached this film, Denial, which is about Irving's libel case against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books for calling him, among other things, a 'holocaust denier' with a certain amount of trepidation.
Would it, I feared, suffer the Hollywood treatment and resemble A Few Good Men and The Caine Mutiny? Would there be histrionics? Would the Americans get the British legal system laughably wrong as they often do?
Rachel Wiesz is Professor Lipstadt in Denial (Photograph courtesy of Luna Cinemas)
No, to all of that. The film, based entirely on court records and Lipstadt's published memoirs of the trial is faithful to what was, and remains, one of the more important libel trials ever held, as important in it's way as the Lady Chatterly obscenity trial (also involving Penguin Books, oddly enough).
However the main topic of this case is one fraught with emotion. Auschwitz is no light matter nor should it be treated so. At one point the legal team are actually in Auschwitz being shown locations by an architectural expert. He says; "Be careful how you tread. This is a shrine'.
In a larger sense this is true of the whole movie, in which the subject, the survivors, the script and the trial itself, including the whole British system of defamation law is treated with great respect and due reverence.
The casting was done with considerable care, Tom Wilkinson, Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall (David Irving), Andrew Scott and Alex Jennings all were perfection in their roles. Even tiny little cameos are filled by great actors - Dame Harriet Walter plays a survivor on screen for about two minutes and yet it's a performance that lingers.
The filming is done with care and a truth that imbues every scene with authority. The one aspect which is not explored is motives. The film makes no speculations about why Irving did what he did, what he hoped to gain and also does not mention that an appeal was dismissed and he was landed with all legal costs, which bankrupted him.
Directed by Mick Jackson from a script by David Hare largely based on Professor Lipstadt's History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.
This was an important case (just imagine if she had lost!) and this is an important film. The holocaust is treated respectfully, but dispassionately, by the lawyers, which simply adds to its desperate tragedy.
In Perth Denial's season starts at Luna Leederville (155 Oxford St, Leederville) and at Luna SX (13 Essex Street, Fremantle) plus Windsor Cinema ( 98 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands) from April 13th.