Why on would you want to debate with someone who insists the Holocaust never occurred? It's the equivalent of arguing with someone who says the world is flat. But when you pause for a moment, it becomes clear that the greatest truths deserve our greatest defense. Thus is the foundation of a fascinating new film, Denial, which had its world premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The film is based on the acclaimed book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial and tells the true story of the legal battle between American scholar and author Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving, one of the world's best known Holocaust deniers.
It all started when Irving sued Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel. The legal tangle became so complex because it took place in England, where the burden of proof in such cases is on the defendant. It was up to Lipstadt and her legal team to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.
What makes Denial such compelling and essential contemporary viewing is that we are living in an age of unreason, with constant assaults on the truth. The Lipstadt vs. Irving trial was especially tricky as Irving was considered "an English gentleman" and even regarded as a "first-rate historian" by one of the U.K.'s preeminent military historians. Lipstadt and her legal eagles eventually realized the only purpose of winning would not be to humiliate Irving but, more importantly, expose a destructive lie that he and many others have perpetrated for decades.
Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz plays Lipstadt and she's surrounded by a fine supporting cast, including Timothy Spall as Irving, Tom Wilkinson as Lipstadt's barrister and Richard Rampton (you know him as Moriarity in the new BBBC Sherlock) as Lipstadt's solicitor.
It's cracking-good stuff and finely detailed in its execution. Denial is a fine courtroom drama but should most wholeheartedly satisfy historians and those who cherish and defend the truth against all comers.