Control


Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Written by:Matt Greenhalgh
Starring: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Joe Anderson, Alexandra Maria Lara, Toby Kebbell, Craig Parkinson
Released: October 25, 2007
Grade: A-

Joy Division were a post-punk English band that formed in late 1970s.  They released just two albums – Unknown Pleasures in 1979 and Closer in 1980.  Whilst they didn’t achieve much in the way of financial success, the band developed a cult following.  They performed in front of thousands of passionate fans at concerts in both the United Kingdom and Europe.

It all ended on May 18, 1980.  Ian Curtis, the lead singer and songwriter, committed suicide at the age of 23.  News of his death sent shockwaves through the music industry.  It was simply too hard to believe.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, the band renamed themselves New Order and they are still around today.

The most well known Joy Division song is “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.  It was ranked number 1 in the Triple J Hottest 100 here in Australia in both 1989 and 1990.  Other songs include Transmission, She’s Lost Control and Atmosphere.

With that background information out of the way, it’s time to start talking about Control.  It’s a film from Dutch director Anton Corbijn which looks at the life of Ian Curtis and the events which led to his suicide.  You won’t be alone if you haven’t heard of Anton Corbijn but his credentials make him the perfect man to direct this film.  He started his career as a music photographer and one of the first bands he worked with was Joy Division.  Over the past 30 years, he has worked with an array of famous artists and has directed numerous music videos.

Control is his first major film and it’s a terrific achievement.  It premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and has been receiving rave reviews ever since.  Shot in black and white, Corbijn transports us back to the late 1970s and takes us into the mind of a troubled individual.

Ian Curtis was a gifted musician but this movie doesn’t focus on talents in that regard.  Rather, we look at his troubled relationship with his wife (the film is based on her autobiography), his battle with epilepsy and the difficulties he faced in coming to grips with the band’s success.  What struck me most was that Curtis had a very introverted personality – not what you’d expect from the lead singer in a popular band.  Music gave him an outlet by which he could express himself but in the process, it created a level of “fame” that he didn’t know how to deal with.

An unknown English actor by the name of Sam Riley plays Ian Curtis.  You’ll quietly chuckle when you see the way that he replicates Curtis’ dance moves on stage.  There’s a lot more to this performance though.  He does what I like to see a great actor do – express himself through actions and emotions rather than dialogue.  He doesn’t say much (particularly in the later stages) but you know exactly what thoughts are going through his mind.

I know very little when it comes to music (the facts above required much research).  I do know a lot about movies however and I can tell you that this is a good one.