I enjoyed the focus on the question of "how do we know". And of course there was the denialism angle that makes it particularly noteworthy for skeptics, and the comment on how indulging deniers gives them a platform and legitimacy, the issue of false balance and the preponderance of evidence versus singular facts, cherry picked and taken out of context, and the issue of establishing intent, rather than negligence, through a pattern of behavior. I liked that they comment on the absurdity of having history judged in a court of law. I also like how they describe the messed up British libel laws (with the almost impossible standard of evidence of having to prove that someone is knowingly
lying, rather than just extremely biased - and of course the conclusion that there is really no difference), and the additional emphasis on legal strategy (even though they said there was none; e.g.: not having her testify, letting Irving undermine himself by agreeing to a single judge instead of a jury, undermining his credibility rather than focusing on the evidence for the holocaust itself, getting under his skin), rather than just evidence, was very interesting. One wonders what the outcome might have been had Irving had a savvy lawyer.
I found the way Deborah Lipstadt was portrayed a bit troubling, in that I kind of hope it's not accurate (which is not to say that I think it was a poor performance or poor writing). In the movie, she seemed really
emotionally invested, to the point of being far more irrational than Irving was (and to the point where I actually found it a little off-putting) - understandable, and interesting, and I would not be surprised if it was accurate given what was at stake, nor would I blame her, but it is somewhat unsettling because of the implications for the potential (in)accuracy and bias of historic scholarship
regarding emotional subjects like these. For example, when they are at Auschwitz and her attorney asks for scientific evidence for their assertions and expresses frustration at the fact that no thorough scientific investigation had been conducted there in 60 years, her reaction is basically "asking for evidence is an insult to the survivors of the holocaust, show some respect!"
. I, being the emotionally void skeptical robot that I am, thought it was a really obvious, logical and reasonable question, especially given why they came there in the first place. My first thought was: If people react like that, is it any wonder that there are Holocaust deniers around? Probably true to life in at least a broad sense, even if not for Lipstadt in particular.
Still, I get that they wanted to make that exact point with that scene (and several others), and I thought the movie handled it very well.
The point about freedom of speech working both ways and not being the equivalent of freedom from criticism was much needed as well. As they were saying that, I felt that this would have been a very different movie, and I would have felt very different about it, had it been about the case against Irving in Austria (which I felt was not a good case at all).