Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)

19Jan11

Sam Riley (Ian Curtis), Samantha Morton (Debbie Curtis), Alexandra Maria Lara (Annik Honore), Joe Anderson (Hooky). Screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh. Directed by Anton Corbijn. Rating: 15. Running time: 122 minutes.

Control is both a beautiful and phenomenal film. Never would I have expected to be so intrigued by a band and lead singer I knew so little about, and which I had no desire to gain any knowledge of. And yet the life of Ian Curtis, a tormented young Macclesfield soul; sufferer of epilepsy and frustrated balancer of a marriage, new love interest and an exploding band going by the name of Joy Division, ultimately driven to suicide at age 23, proves to be huge, fascinating, fertile material for the man who photographed them in the 70s and now works as an excellent director.

Corbijn portrays Curtis’ existence here magnificently: the dreadful setting of an industrial city suburb dominated by high rise flats and terraced houses is never forgotten, but suitably subdued by the monotone colour scheme to never be the focus. Hell, most of the scenes here are even somehow stunning – some achievement in itself, only reinforced further by the perfect performances, and excellent balance between the personal and public aspects of Curtis’ life. There’s what I can only presume are nuggets of fan folklore scattered here: we’re shown a record producer joking he’s so committed to signing the Division up that he’d put his blood on the contract – something they had the power to actually demand, and duly received. There’s early scenes of Curtis’ pre-marital, pre-mental days, lying in bed smoking and soaking up the sounds of David Bowie, in awe of where the music could take him. There’s also, most importantly, evidence of what tensions provoked the breakdown, and what induced the final act. But never does it feel like superficial rationalisation, nor mindless speculation: he was simply in a situation, love and career wise, which he could not handle. He hung himself on the eve of his first American tour and the night his wife demanded divorce.

Riley, who here performs as Curtis, is set to play Jack Kerouac later this year, in a highly ambitious attempt at bringing On The Road to the big screen. Nothing here suggests we should doubt his ability to do well. With Control, under Corbijn’s guidance, he has already managed to embody one cryptic, chaotic soul, that only had time to inspire two albums, but whose legacy lives on to this day.

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