Director: Mick Jackson (2016) BBFC cert: 12A
Book yourself a grandstand seat at the Old Bailey for this courtroom drama of international importance. Smartly crafted from a real case, it provides plenty of evidence that great writing, performance and direction make for gripping cinema.
Brit actress Rachel Weisz sports red hair and a US accent as forthright Jewish university lecturer, Deborah Lipstadt. It’s an impassioned performance fuelled by an unbending sense of moral certainty, full of sharp intelligence, wit and determination.
There’s a very American feel to proceedings, with an emphasis on the sanctity of free speech and the virtues of jogging. Lawyers of course, are celebrated.
Deborah is forced to to come to London to defend herself when she is sued for libel by British historian and holocaust denier, David Irving.
Timothy Spall is magnificent as the self-taught and social climbing bigot on the make. Endowing him with charm, dignity and sincerity, Spall makes Irving’s reprehensible arguments appear dangerously and falsely reasonable and seductive.
The case hinges on Irving’s denial of the true purpose of Auschwitz. He claims the death camp in Nazi occupied Poland during the Second World War wasn’t geared for industrial genocide. The cost of Deborah losing will be Holocaust denial being legitimised by a court of law, potentially allowing for a legally backed downgrading of Nazi atrocities.
Various Characters are denied their voice in court, not least the vociferous Deborah who is frustrated at having to allow her barrister, Richard, to speak on her behalf. Tom Wilkinson is wry, irrascible and fond of red wine as her much experienced advocate.
There’s a strong supporting cast throughout, even if the presence of Andrew Scott and Mark Gatiss from TV’s Sherlock occasionally lend the air of superior Sunday evening TV fare.
However a winter visit to Auschwitz offers some welcome visual gravitas and underlines the utter importance of the case. And when the verdict comes in, there’s no denying the audience is the winner.