Bleecker Street 150 minutes PG-13
Just because someone says something and says it’s a fact, doesn’t mean it is so. This is what Holocaust author, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, had to prove in a British court of law in to defend herself against Holocaust denier, David Irving, who she named in her book.
The case was tried 16 years ago, but it speaks directly to how facts and truth are dealt with today. We interviewed Lipstadt about working with Rachel Weisz, who plays her, and about the 8 weeks she spent in court without being allowed to say one word! Interview here
This movie has the look and feel of a dramatic documentary which is what Lipstadt wanted when she granted the option to make the movie. However, she refused to have made-up elements added for dramatic effect. In fact, she told us that all of the courtroom dialogue was exactly as it was presented in court. Verbatim.
Irving presented video tapes and documents trying to prove that the Holocaust never happened and was disrespectful and glib in his remarks. He also represented himself. Lipstadt told us she is still in touch with the team of lawyers that defended her and they’ve become like family.
She refused to debate Holocaust deniers because she equated them to anyone making a claim based on stupidity, ignorance or hate. She says statements like “The world is round” and “Elvis is not alive.” are two facts that do not need to be debated.Today we can add things like “Global Warming is real and the Holocaust happened.”
Lipstadt told us in our interview that she met with Rachel Weisz who plays her in the movie and found out that the actress had an even more direct tie to the Holocaust than the she did. “Both her parents are refugees from Hitler.…her Father from Germany, her Mother from Vienna. Both of them escaped to England as fairly young children.” There’s is not doubt she is all in with her performance.
Lipstadt was on the set during the shoot. But she says that toward the end of filming, when the scenes became more intense, the actress would ask Lipstadt to stay back, which the Professor says she understood. Weisz had to study with a coach to get the Brooklyn accent down. It’s not as strong as Lipstadt’s, but it works.
Director Mick Jackson and Writer David Hare worked hard to keep the material true and interesting without being confusing. We are shown the difference between the British and U.S. legal system. The presumption of innocence is not given to the defendant which makes it even more difficult.
There is a Barrister and a Soliciter on the team. One prepares the case and the other tries the case in court. Tom Wilkinson who plays Richard Rampton presents the case with such conviction and Anthony Julius as Andrew Scott is right there as the supportive lawyer behind-the-scenes. Timothy Spall as the denier, David Irving, is frightening with the wild-eyed characterization he presents in court. He’s almost serpentine as the villain in this film.
Lipstadt says the scenes that got to her were those shot at Auschwitz when Weisz is saying the prayer for the dead, and also the scene when she thought the Judge asked a question that looked like it was going to derail the case. See our interview to hear what she said in her explicit reaction at that moment.
It’s rare when a movie can be both faithful to the facts and dramatic. Lipstadt doesn’t want this film to have a message but hopes the take away should be people to stand up for truth and refuse to stay silent when hate is purported to be fact. There’s n denying this film is both entertaining, as well as thought provoking.