* Prices may differ from that shownMore Offers
Fans of gloomy 80s band Joy Division will love Control, a biopic about lead singer Ian Curtis. Troubled personally and professionally and prone to both depression and epilepsy, he died at the tragically young age of just 23, having established Joy Division as one of the cult bands of the late 70s/early 80s. Yet, even if you are unfamiliar with Joy Division or their music, it is still a film well worth watching.
Control looks superb, thanks to some imaginative directing from Anton Corbijn. The whole thing is in black and white, which underlines the stark sense of hopelessness and depression that pervades the film. It also underlines how bleak life in the late 70s/early 80s could be in communities which had lost hope and been devastated by the Thatcher "revolution". It's amazing that so simple a technique as excluding colour can have such an impact, but Control's look is both distinctive and fitting for its tone and subject matter.
As you might reasonably expect from a music biopic, it also sounds good. Joy Division songs (plus others from the period) form the backdrop to many scenes, instantly bringing memories flooding back for those of us of a certain age. As well as reminding you of how good the band was, it also gives a sense of their musical progression; how they improved over time going from a bunch of Sex Pistol wannabes to a much more polished group with their own distinctive style and sound.
The real star has to be the script, based on a book by widow Deborah Curtis and adapted for the screen by Matt Greenhalgh (who penned the similarly themed John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy. Unlike Nowhere Boy (which focussed on a fairly narrow period of Lennon's life), Greenhalgh paints a bigger picture, taking Curtis from pained adolescent through to tragic suicide. True, the script takes a broad brush approach, reconstructing the most critical events of that period, rather than every small triumph or defeat, but this helps the film. It stops it becoming too bogged down in minutiae and makes it a simple story of a lost soul.
The skill of Greenhalgh obvious in both Control and Nowhere Boy is in creating a very human drama centred on the lives of real people. Whilst Ian Curtis and Joy Division might not be quite as instantly recognisable as John Lennon and the Beatles, he works the same magic with their story. This is a tragic tale about people who happen to be involved in the music industry, rather than about the music industry itself. It is a very human story about a confused, troubled individual and two women who, in their own ways, loved him and tried to help him. In this sense, there are direct parallels between the three key characters in both Nowhere Boy and Control.
Just as in Nowhere Boy, the acting is a real strength of Control. Sam Riley is outstanding as Ian Curtis. Make-up might have done an excellent job in bringing out a physical resemblance, but it's Riley's acting that really catches the eye. Brooding, moody and selfish, Curtis should be a despicable character, universally disliked. Yet, whilst never glossing over his selfish, self-destructive side, Riley paints a deeply nuanced picture of the singer, making him vulnerable and pitiful; a lost young man unable to cope with life. It's on-stage though that Riley (and by extension Curtis) really comes to life. He captures the singer's on-stage mannerisms and mournful singing voice perfectly; a seriously assured performance from such a young actor.
Riley's ably supported by an excellent turn from Samantha Morton as Curtis' wife, Debbie. It would have been too easy to play this part as the oppressed victim of Curtis' sullen self-centredness. Whilst there is obviously an element of this, Morton ensures that her character rises above it, instilling her with a loyalty and dignity that speaks of her profound and lasting love for her husband. It's a deeply moving and emotional performance that contrasts sharply with the sometimes (deliberately) unemotional performance from Riley.
Again, echoing Nowhere Man, it's a pity that the support cast gets a little lost, particularly the rest of the Joy Division members and their manager. They become little more than background noise, there when needed but otherwise anonymous. This is even true of Curtis' mistress Annik, who is disappointingly anonymous.
Unfortunately, as well as sharing its strengths, Control also suffers some of the same weaknesses as Nowhere Boy. In particular, there is a slight sense of temporal dislocation caused by focussing a little too tightly on Curtis and his band. It would have been helpful to place Joy Division's contribution to music in a wider context. This is the period when the music scene in Manchester was beginning to gain real momentum and whilst there is occasional mention of other bands, that's about it. Whilst this is understandable it does mean that you have to have a reasonable knowledge of the music scene at that time to pick up the nuances in the script.
Don't expect this to be a feel-good film. It's no secret that Curtis suffered a tortured life and tragic death, so I'm not giving too much away but Curtis' depression and gradual loss of control (over both himself and his band's destiny) don't make for happy viewing. Like Joy Division's songs, Control doesn't care for happiness and it can make for a quite bleak and depressing watch.
A final disappointment comes with the film's ending. Bar one brief caption confirming the date of Curtis' death, there is no follow up information. What happened to the rest of the band and their manager? What happened to Deborah Curtis and his lover Annik? It's a real anti-climax. Having engaged the viewer for around two hours, surely the least the film could do is bring them up to speed with the post-Curtis lives of the remaining characters? Sure, you can find this information out easily enough from that Google thingy, but it would have felt more rounded, more satisfying had the film done this for you.
Like Nowhere Boy, Control is a compelling, human drama that just happens to also be a musical biopic. Even if you've never heard of Joy Division, it's well worth watching.
Director: Anton Corbijn
Running time: approx. 122 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
Control is a rock biopic focusing on the life of Ian Curtis, the late singer with the punk band Joy Division. The film is based on the book, Touching from a Distance, written in 1995 by Curtis's estranged wife, Debbie.
The movie focuses on Curtis's life from 1973 up to his untimely death at the age of just 23 in 1980. Seeing Curtis through his wife's eyes, he comes across initially as a normal but bored young man who comes to suffer at the hands of epilepsy and depression, struggles with the beginnings of fame and is torn between his loyalty to his wife and baby daughter and his growing love for the fanzine journalist Annik Honore.
Filmed in black and white and with a sparse soundtrack containing a few prerequisite Joy Division songs but also long periods of silence, the movie paints an atmospheric picture of bleakness and growing despair. Judging from old Joy Division footage, relative newcomer Sam Reilly is spot on as Ian Curtis, while respected British actress Sam Morton is good if unspectacular as his long-suffering wife. Other members of the cast are good lookalikes for the other members of Joy Division, Peter Hook, Stephen Morriss and Bernard Sumner, record company boss Tony Wilson, but are very much in the background in what is clearly an Ian Curtis show. Only Tony Kebbell as the band's put-upon manager Rob Geffon stands out with some slightly lighter hearted ranting as he tries to push the band towards further success.
My biggest concern while watching the film was the angle it would take being based on Curtis's estranged wife's memoirs, and indeed while not entirely painting Curtis as a womanizing cheat it certainly portrays Debbie as a kind, loving wife who could do no wrong, while the character of Annik is barely delved into at all. We don't even see how they first met. It is clear throughout, though, that Debbie never stopped loving Curtis, and he does come across as someone unfortunately overburdened by circumstances who perhaps could have survived if given better medical care.
With the exception of Love Will Tear Us Apart I'd never heard any Joy Division songs, and while the film didn't make me a fan it did give me a greater appreciation for Ian Curtis, although I felt that the rest of Joy Division, later to regroup as New Order, might feel a little hard done by. While Curtis might have been the prime lyricist for the group the songs were all co-written and the film's focus on the tragic young singer takes a little credit away from the rest of the band, who would go on to have far greater success. Ian Curtis wasn't quite as undeserving of hero worship as someone like Sid Vicious, but a film such as this will only serve to raise his profile further and put the rest of the band into the shade. Still, it was an interesting story and a movie I would recommend.
Control is a biographical film about Ian Curtis, lead singer with Joy Division. It is based on the book Touching From A Distance by Deborah Curtis, widow of the aforementioned. It stars Sam Riley as Ian Curtis and Samantha Morton as Deborah "Debbie" Curtis.
It focuses on the short life of the influential singer who committed suicide in May 1980 at the age of 23. We first see Curtis (Sam Riley) in 1973 when he was a shy teenager sitting in his bedroom listening to David Bowie. He begins to date Deborah Woodruff (Samantha Morton) and takes her to a Bowie concert. They marry very young (Ian is 19 and Debbie is 18) and soon begin to realise that they have married prematurely. Ian spends a lot of time writing poetry and hanging out with his friends Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Curtis. They decide to form a band and after initially calling themselves Warsaw they decide to change their name to Joy Division.
Ian is now working as a Civil Servant at the Employment Exchange. One of his clients Corinne Lewis (Nicola Harrison) has a seizure in front of him and later dies. This incident inspires Curtis to write the Joy Division track "She's Lost Control".
Curtis suffers from mood swings and depression and in 1978 is diagnosed with epilepsy. He is prescribed carbamazephine and phenytoin. The following year Debbie gives birth to a child, Natalie.
Curtis and the band meet a Belgian fanzine journalist called Annik Hamore (Alexandra Maria Lara, Riley's wife in real life). Curtis admits to her that his marriage was a mistake and begins an affair with her. Curtis then leaves Debbie on her own to look after their daughter and find a job while he goes on tour with Joy Division.
Curtis begins to have seizures on a more regular basis, often during gigs. During one performance at the Derby Hall Alan Hempshall of Crispy Ambulance replaces Curtis but is heckled by the crowd.
Control, made in 2007 was produced and directed by Anton Corbjin. Samantha Morton was co-producer. The screenplay was written by Matt Greenhalgh.
Control is outstanding from start to finish. Sam Riley is brilliant as the troubled singer and even sings during the Joy Division performances. Riley used to be the vocalist for the Leeds band 10,000 Things. Samantha Morton (Minority Report) who co-produces and portrays Debbie Curtis is also outstanding. The fact that the film was made in black and white adds something extra to the film. As far as rock biogs go it surely must be one of the best if not the best.
As a big Joy Division fan and having read every book, magazine article, newspaper snippets etc I could pore over, I was excited to see the news that Control was to be released, although slightly disappointed it would be based on Deborah Curtis's book. Not because the book was poor but because I was looking forward to a new slant.
However the film sticks to the book very well. Deborah Curtis comes across well and Ian comes across as both a complete prat and a decent guy in rare spells.
Filmed in black and white, Anton Corbijn captures a very arty scene and hsi landscaping of the North-Western scenery in the early parts of the film is quite wonderful.
Newcomer Sam Riley is magnificent in the lead role of Curtis and captures the trance like stance and manic dancing style perfectly. Equally well he portrays Curtis' moody attitude which gives a very dark feel to the whole film.
Any fan of Joy Division or indeed the Factory Records sound will love the music throughout the film, speaking of which Tony Wilson is well represented too with a good performance from Craig Parkinson. Wilson also acted as a producer before his death.
This really is an essential piece of viewing for any fan of music in general. Joy Division are still a major influence on many bands, arguably more than ever with atmospheric music growing from strength to strength. For anyone wanting to have a better understanding of a key time in music history, you must watch this.
Control is a much celebrated biopic of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis (Sam Riley, who was previously an unknown performer), depicting his early life in school, his rocky relationship with his now widow, Deborah (played by Samantha Morton), his suffering with epilepsy, and his eventual suicide in May 1980. Control is based on "Touching from a Distance", a book written by Deborah Curtis. Although many of his bandmates such as Peter Hook have conceded that much of the film is in no way factual, they resolve that this bending of the truth benefitted the film, for the actual events are far too boring to make a compelling film. It recieved much acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
This is an extremely accomplished piece of filmmaking from start to finish - Anton Corbijn's monochrome direction could very well have been a pretentious stylistic flair, but in actual fact it works incredibly well here, illustrating and underscoring an unrealised and mundane life that Curtis attempts to fulfil through his music and his many loves. Performance wise, the film is also excellent - newcomer Riley is stellar in his debut performance, and Samantha Morton also displays superb chemistry with him as his screen wife.
Although ultimately concerned with the untimely suicide of Ian Curtis, Control is hardly a joyless affair, packed with plenty of wit and humour, as well as outstanding performances from Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, and Toby Kebbell. Anton Corbijn's opting for black-and-white cinematography is hardly a gimmick either, making for a film that is not only emotionally resonant, but vibrant and beautiful.
Control is a biopic of Ian Curtis, who was the singer and front man of the well known band Joy Division. I was given this dvd as present without having ever really listened to Joy Division and found that having no previous knowledge of the band or their music did not affect my viewing of this film at all.
I was truck by the brilliance of this film in many ways. Firstly it is beautifully shot throughout, perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the director was originally photographer- and notably shot a few pictures of the band. The next great thing about this film is the way in which it tells the story of Ian Curtis' life and the story itself. For those that don't know, Curtis committed suicide as a result of depression, which in part was due to the effect of being a sufferer of epilepsy had on his life.
The story is told in both a sentimental and non sentimental way, letting the viewer decide what to really make of events. Again I found this really enhanced the film. Finally, the film has a soundtrack full of Joy Division music, which converted me to liking the band and their music and after watching this film I subsequently went out and bought a Joy Division album.
Whether you know Joy Division or not, this is a film that should not be missed.
Whilst most angsty indie college rock feeds into that rather demonstrative and erroneous student melancholy you get with your first year at 'uni', a collective student bonding to mask that guilt over their middle-class advantages in life, Joy Division were the real deal, lead singer Ian Curtis toping himself in the ultimate tribute to his genuine and very real depression. His music and his followers were his therapy and his melancholy was very real. This is way the Ian Curtis's and Kurt Cobains of the world are still remembered today, their music and lyrics direct reflections of the people they were and the tragedy they suffered. I was never a fan of the band or indeed any Indy music (which I hate with a passion) but I quietly admire any artiste that never sells out, which was definitely the case with Joy Division, named after an elite Nazi regiment, a further pointer to the state of his mind.
Music biopics are usually interesting affairs, whether you dig the band or not. But films of the band played by actors can also be watchable, the 'Buddy Holly Story' and 'Walk the Line', noted successes...What makes 'Control' stand out is the startling performance by young Sam Riley, absolutely nailing the intensity and anguish of the lead singer's unstable character, even learning the songs and the singers unique stage mannerisms to perfect the performance. It really is energetic stuff and laced with real pathos and contrition and worth the rent alone just for Riley.
Sam Riley ... Ian Curtis
Samantha Morton ... Deborah Curtis
Alexandra Maria Lara ... Annik Honoré
Joe Anderson ... Peter Hook
James Anthony Pearson ... Bernard Sumner
Harry Treadaway ... Stephen Morris
Craig Parkinson ... Tony Wilson
Toby Kebbell ... Rob Gretton
Andrew Sheridan ... Terry Mason
Robert Shelly ... Twinny
We first meet Curtis as a rather vacant and sorrowful Manchester teenager, in his last year at school, desperate to get out and start a band, the country and the north coming alive to the sound of punk. But he soon ends up in the drudgery of the dole office, but not as a one-in-ten but a desk clerk, spending his days finding jobs for deadbeats. But by night the real Curtis comes to life, soon trying to get a band together, in love with local girl Deborah (Samantha Morton) who he would soon marry.
When the couple witness the anarchy of the Sex Pistols up on stage he's even more desperate to be up there with them. Curtis's first band is called 'Warsaw', a four piece with his mates, three chords and some interesting melodies the order of the day. But when they change their name to Joy Division people start to take note with a healthy in-crowd following, the guys the talk of the Indie punk scene, a mouthy 'Manc' called Rob Gretton (Tony Kebbell) offering to be their manager, soon getting legendary northern music promoter Tony Wilson (Craig Parkinson) to sign them up in his own blood, literally, Wilson that keen to get them on his independent label. But just as things get going Curtis begins to have fits and so prescribed a cocktail of drugs by his doctor and told to stay off the booze and nightlife. But Wilson, Gretin and the band members want success now, especially with a tour to America on offer, which not only puts pressure on Curtis to perform in his uniquely intense way but also drives him away from his wife and baby and into the arms of a pretty Belgium journalist, Annik Honoré (Alexander Maria Lara), who's following the band, that illicit step too far for his increasingly dark and doom laden head. Everybody wants a piece of you when you're famous and Curtis is falling apart because of that.
* Sam Riley previously played The Fall singer Mark E. Smith in 24 Hour Party People (2002) hence the in-joke after Curtis' onstage fit when Rob Gretton tells him things could be worse, he could be the singer in "The Fall". Posters for "The Fall" gigs can also be seen at just about every venue Joy Division plays. Another interestingly connection with 24 Hour Party People is that Paddy Considine plays the Rob Gretton character in 24 Hour Party People and the guy who plays alongside Paddy as his divvy brother in the brilliant dead Mans Shoes is Tony Kebbell.
If you are one of the ten percent of Britain's on tablets for anxiety and depression (and growing) then best not rent this as its tough viewing. It's a film about you. It won't help your situation but vindicate it. Its 122 minutes of blackness and gloom in the mind of a troubled genius and very well made too. 'Curtis hung himself on May 23rd, 1980, this his brief and painful story, some people born to cram their presence into such a short shelf life on this mortal coil because that's the only way their intensity and meaning can be real.
The opening sequence of Curtis in his bedroom is good because it was stolen from an enjoyable but obscure French movie called 'CRAZY', and it's not the only plagiarised moment here. But directors nick the best bits like writers do (cough!) and it fits neatly to get the film moving, the man behind the lens here, Anton Corbin, well versed in fitting classic pop tunes to sequences on film, he a pop photographer and video maker in his early days. In fact his interest in Joy Davison wasn't only his absolute admiration for the band and their music but he filmed some of their early tours and performances in the 70s. It was only right that he took up the option to direct when a script materialized, allegedly re-mortgaging his house to make the movie.
Shot in black and white to give it a texture of a snap shot in music history its Sam Riley's stand out performance that makes the movie. Sadly the BAFTAS bottled out and awarded Shia Lebouf the 'Orange Young up and coming Actor of the Year Award' in 2007 for Transformers and Disturbia instead of Riley for this. Control did get the coveted BAFTA nom for Best British Film in 2008. When he actually sings the tunes on stage to a real audience he's so convincing, Anton Corbin's decision not to use archive footage seriously pays off as Riley really does become Curtis on stage, all the energy and stage presence there to a tee. The script is good too although it's the chap who plays the bands manager that deliberately gets the best lines, perhaps a mechanism by director Corbin to at least have some moments of humour in one of the most morose movies you will ever see.
The title 'Control' refers to Curtis feeling that he was losing his, his increasing fits and exhaustive performances sucking the life out of him, giving everything to his music his calling, the purveyor of the message. Any artist that puts everything into their work will ultimately lose something to it. The director really picks up on that and it's that sacrifice that drives the movie to its grim and somewhat disturbing conclusion. Again if you are of the delicate state then steer clear.
= = = = = Special <*> Features = = = = =
-Audio Commentary with Anton Corbin-
Clearly this is his baby and he's proud of his movie but I was not up for more depression and angst with a layered track.
-The making of 'Control'-
Talking heads from cast& crew discuss the movie...
-Deleted and extended scenes-
-Joy Division: Atmosphere 88 video-
This is Anton Corbis first collaboration with the bands legacy.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Imdb.com scores it out of 7.9 out of 10.0 (14,314 votes)
RuN-TiMe 122 minutes
3 for £6 weekly deal at Blockbusters
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
"Love will tear you apart"...' its one of music's great lyrics man....."
Control (2007) (B&W) is an amazing Biographic on the life of Ian Curtis. Curtis, for those of you not into your music, was lead singer of the band Joy Division. Joy Division formed in 1976 in Manchester and in their short spell became one of the most important bands of their time. Their legacy still lives on in the bands of today.
The film begins before Joy Division with Ian living in Macclesfield in his parents house. At college he meets his future wife Debbie Woodruff bound together through their love of music. They go together to a David Bowie gig and soon after this move in together. Ian and Debbie are then seen at a Sex Pistols gig and it is here that Ian meets up with Bernard Summer, Peter Hook and Terry Mason and from this meeting the band Warsaw is formed.
The film flips between Ian's life as a family man with an office job and responsibilities and Ian the fledgling rock star. In his office job working for the job centre Ian sees one of his clients suffer an epilectic fit and later discovers that this was fatal. Ian shocked by this, then discovers he himself is a sufferer.
He becomes more deep and insular as a person. Neglectful of his wife Debbie who is now pregnant he focuses all his time and a lot of his money on the band. Now called Joy Division and with the involvement of Tony Wilson (watch the brilliant 24 Hour Party People for the story of his life) his musical career starts to take off.
As things start really to get moving Ian suffers a fit on stage. This is the catalyst for him giving up his day job, meaning that now with child Debbie has to go back to work to make ends meet. As Ian descends into the rock n roll life he grows to resent the albatross his wife and child have become. The medication he takes to control his epilepsy mixed with his lifestyle seem to draw the life from him until eventually just before a massive tour of America Ian decides to kill himself.
Ian Curtis is played by Sam Riley. The first really striking thing you notice is just how alike Sam and the real Ian look. They could have been clones. Sam managed to capture pretty well Ian's movements on stage and mannerisms on it really well. This is pretty much Sam's first role and my fear is that he may have been too good as Ian that his career may be restricted to this one role.
Interestingly for Joy Division fans the film is directed by Anton Corbijn, himself a massive Joy Division fan who made his name photographing the band. As an independent film Corbijn stumped up a large proportion of the budget from his own pocket such was his love of the band and of the story of Ian Curtis.
Right then the Soundtrack. Well if like me you like Joy Division you are going to like the sound track. One oddity though is that the David Bowie and Sex Pistols that you hear in the film are the real mccoys. The Joy Division sounds are all covers by the cast of the film. However to the un-die hard you would never know. It sounds amazing.
The sound and the black and white footage tie brilliantly together. This movie made in 2007 seems to capture the atmosphere and vibe of the time. Everything about this film feels right. The first part of the film seems to be full of optimism and hope. As the band grows this ebbs away. Curtis lyrics centre around the words "coldness, darkness, loss and control".
Curtis is unable to control his body due to epilepsy and unable to control his epilepsy, so unable to control his life. He does the only thing he can to take back control. In the film this is a dark scene but is done really well.
I liked Joy Division before watching this film. I was not a massive fan but I really loved this movie. It is perfect in its tone and atmosphere. It captures and records the music that led to the music I love today - Interpol, the Editors, Bloc Party all cite inspiration from Joy Division.
If you are thinking... how do I cheer myself up this weekend? I don't recommend watching Control - the film about Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis and his life, culminating in his suicide of course! This is probably one of the most depressing films ever but then to anyone who knows the band, I suppose they'd expect little else.
Even in the early stages of the film when things are going fairly well.. Ian Curtis lacks enthusiasm and doesn't really seem as though he wants to be on the planet, in fact the only time you really see him smile is in the company of Belgian girl Anit. The filming is quite iconic, in black and white showing a few house and studio scenes, smokey pubs and the occasional concert, often the bleak side of life. Ian's wife Debbie is portrayed in a similar way, wearing dowdy 70s clothing with a portly figure before, after and during her pregnancy, seemingly relatively uninterested in the artist's musical life.
Anit is quite the opposite, vivacious, pretty and interested in the performing side/ The life on the road with Anit and the life at home with Debbie and later his daughter seem to rip him apart, the film doesn't seem to portray him as a particularly big user of alcohol or drugs and really only shows constant smoking scenes! Epilepsy and relationships seem to get the better of him but considering he wasn't exactly a cheery character in the first place, this is seemingly blown out of proportion.
Good acting and entertaining support in the form of band members and manager! My one criticism is that it was a little bit slow and seemed to spend too long focusing on a few sections and then skip a seemingly large section, this problem eases towards the last hour though.
Control - the story of Joy Division and their enigmatic singer Ian Curtis. The film attempts to tell a balanced story of the life and death of Ian Curtis. It is obviously influenced by the published memoirs of his wife Deborah but it is also strengthened by the writers having had communication with his, previously silent, lover Anik. The film is directed by the photographer Anton Corbjn and this makes it stunning to watch in terms of cinematography. Despite the fact that most people watching the film are aware it is going to have a tragic ending, the film does offer several moments of light relief and humour. Samantha Morton leads a supporting cast that portrays many well known figures without becoming their caricatures. First time actor Sam Riley delivers an amazing performance as Curtis and offers all sides of this complex character and his struggles with epillepsy and depression. The inevitable ending is handled well and left most of the cinema in tears. A moving film that sticks in your mind.
"Control" is an epic biopic about the life of Ian Curtis, the troubled lead singer of Joy Division, a post punk band from Salford in Greater Manchester. The film documents Ian Curtis' short life, depression and growing problems with his crippling epilepsy. The life of Curtis has been highly documented, and because of such this film is highly true to real life, and is based loosely on "Touching For A Distance", a moving memoir written by Curtis' wife Debbie Woodruff.
The film opens with a 17 year old Curtis (Sam Riley) lying in bed listening to The Velvet Underground, and focuses on his relationship with Debbie (Samantha Morton), and his love of Bowie. The pair marry at a young age (Curtis was 19 and Debbie 18), and Curtis fast becomes disinterested in his married life. The film quickly speeds ahead to 1976, where a 20 year old Ian meets Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Terry Mason at a Sex Pistols gig. They go on to form the band "Warsaw" and the film begins to really take shape into the story that we all know.
I won't give anything away for those who don't know what does happen, but there are a few scenes which really show the quality of the film. The scene where the band get their TV break on the late Tony Wilson's show is filmed fantastically, and Riley's performance in this scene as the disjointed Curtis is one of the most accurate copies of a Joy Division performance I've ever seen.
The scenes focusing on Curtis' epilepsy are haunting and memorable, particularly his first fit in the car. When he attempts to get in contact with the girl from earlier in his life who had an epileptic fit at his workplace, only to discover she has died of a seisure, we get the first real display of emotion regarding the disorder, and it appears that no one has told him the real dangers of epilepsy as he seems genuinely shocked and horrified that she could have died from the disorder. It is this event which inspired Curtis to write "She's Lost Control", the song from which the title of the film was derived.
Sam Riley is hauntingly impressive as the depressed Curtis, and his vocals are incredibly close to the real sound of Ian. He never tries to glamourise Curtis in ways some would wish to, and he is genuinely shown as an unloving person when the film calls for it, in particular during scenes with his wife, Debbie. Whilst in the early scenes their romance was loving, the speed with which they married and had a child was obviously too fast for the pair, and pushed by Ian's impatience and desire to live in the present. He admits this to Annik, his mistress, stating clearly "Our Marriage was a mistake".
The extra-marital affair is, like other issues in the film, approached in a straightforward manner, and whilst Debbie stays at home we see snippets of Ian with Annik, as he becomes more and more unloving towards his wife. When Debbie finally becomes suspicious, we see her looking for any sign of an affair, and when she finally finds Annik's number, Curtis loses the immunity of his legacy that protects him earlier in the film, in favour of feeling sympathy for Debbie.
Curtis' final scene of the film is approached minimally. Curtis is never judged for his choices, but the second any Joy Division fan hears the first notes of Iggy Pop's "The Idiot", they will know what is about to happen. The film is never graphic nor overly revealing, but it does not take much to see what has happened.
The entire film was shot in colour and then printed on black and white, which gives it a unique look in the levels of contrast, and there is a fantastic level of accuracy in the objects and consistency of the film with the era. The black and white makes scenes, such as the gig scenes, look even as if they're from a different era, and the whole film looks frighteningly similar to Joy Division's last single with Curtis, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" with the choice of frames and the way it fits together. The film is quite artistic, and the style of the shooting suits this, with still cameras used in order to allow the acting to shine through, and very few cliched artsy panning shots. The still cameras also give the film a documentary-style finish, which really helps the believability of the film.
The film is, quite simply, one of the best biopics out there. The film presents Curtis as a human being, as opposed to a godly being immune to criticism, and its so beautifully shot that it is almost impossible to skip a single scene, on the 1st watch or the 15th. All of the characters are believable, not always likeable and very true to the era - the costumes and scenery had obviously been carefully planned, not a single character ever looks like they are from any decade other than the 1970s.
Sam Riley is completely tenable as Ian Curtis - the verisimilitude in his performance is both fantastic and horrific, and there will be times during the film where it's hard to think that it isn't Ian Curtis on the screen. His childish need to be loved is exactly how I, as a Joy Division fan, imagined him to be, and Riley's decision to put everything into the performance is exactly what Curtis did at every gig.
The performance from the rest of the band is minimal, and although Bernard seems to generally want to help Ian, none of the band are seen to have an overly close relationship with Ian in the film.
The two female leads, Samantha Morton as Debbie and Alexandra Lara as Annik, are both fantastic. Morton, as Curtis' wife, is emotional and loving towards Curtis even when he is unloving and emotionally inept. Annik, as the 'other woman', is never developed as a character, which is for the best. As it is, she is only minorly disliked by the audience, and gaining any sympathy for her would distract from what she is doing - knowingly breaking up her boyfriend's marriage.
There are a number of extras on the DVD, including; Director's commentary, extended video of Transmission, making of control, Joy Division's 'atmosphere' video (directed by Anton Corbijn), photo gallery and trailer. They are pretty good, but never really match the quality of the film.
Control is a necessity for every fan of Joy Division or anyone interested in watching a good movie. The subtle choice of colour and realism of the film is one of the best examples of how to approach a subject as touchy and emotional as the Ian Curtis' life, and it is an absolute classic and essential film for anyone. Its stark emotional content help make it the must-watch film that it truly is.
"I'd been warned on a train to London two weeks earlier by Annik. I asked her, 'What do you think of the new album.' She goes, 'I'm terrified.' I said, 'What are you terrified of?' She replies, 'Don't you understand? When he sings 'I take the blame' He means it.' And I go, 'No, he doesn't mean it - it's art.' And guess what? He f**king meant it." Tony Wilson on Ian Curtis
'Control' is a film about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, who committed suicide in 1980. It charts his story from 1973 when he joins the band (originally called 'Warsaw') through the growing success of Joy Division and his increasing torment, to his death at the age of 23. It is a moving portrayal of this talented and troubled man.
The film is based on the book 'Touching from a Distance' by his wife, Deborah Curtis and is directed by Anton Corbijn, a photographer who worked with Joy Division and was responsible for many of the classic shots of this band with which we have come to be so familiar as well as the video for 'Atmosphere'. It is his directorial debut. The film is shot in black and white, basically because most of the images of Joy Division are in black and white, which was mainly down to the publications at the time. I think this works very well. I imagine Macclesfield to be as grey as it is portrayed in monochrome (well, based on my experience of Manchester...). His skill as a photographer translates well to film, with many of the scenes being beautifully composed.
What really makes this film is the performance of newcomer Sam Riley in the role of Ian Curtis. He is not the spit of Curtis, but there is enough about him that is similar to allow you to believe you are watching the man himself. He puts in a convincing portrayal of a man in decline, the confusion and, in some scenes, the despair are palpable. The epileptic fits are totally realistic, and you do get a real sense of his losing 'control'. What is most extraordinary, though, is his live performance. Riley really captures Curtis' mannerisms, the way that he gave absolutely all of himself and more to the music and the performance. More extraordinary than this is that he and the other 3 actors who play Barney Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris on the drums all perform the tracks live themselves. We only appreciated this fully when the titles came up because the performances themselves were so convincing.
The rest of the soundtrack is as strong as you would expect from a film of this kind, and provides a backdrop to the time (Bowie, the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks).
Other performances worth of note are Samantha Norton as Deborah Curtis. Norton's performance is understated - it is what goes unsaid so often, but that you see expressed in other ways, that tells her story. Toby Kebbell (Dead Man's Shoes) as their manager, Rob Gretton puts in an energetic and entertaining performance.
The screenplay writer, Matt Greenhalgh, worked closely with Deborah Curtis during the writing process to ensure that it was as accurate a portrayal as he could make it. It would be interesting to know what research she also did before she wrote the book (which I haven't read), given the story is very much about a love triangle between Ian, Deborah and the Belgian woman that Ian meets on tour, Annik. The film portrays how abandoned Deborah is, left behind at home with their baby daughter, whilst Ian is away on tour, so you do wonder about how much she really knew and understood. Greenhalgh did also go to Belgium to talk to Annik. He describes in the 'making of' feature on the CD how moving this meeting was for her as it was the first time she'd really talked about it for many years.
This film is not really a biopic of Joy Division. Whilst you do get some of those classic moments in time portrayed (the Sex Pistols' famous performance at Manchester Free Trade Hall; Joy Division appearing on Tony Wilson's TV show on Granada Television; Tony Wilson signing the contract between Factory Records and the band in his own blood), this is essentially the story of Ian Curtis and how he came to a place where the best course of action for him was suicide. On this count, it is quite convincing, but not completely. Whilst some aspects of the film totally capture reality: the house used in the film was actually his house and the scene of his suicide; and the contribution of Deborah Curtis who was there in many of his most intimate scenes means that we have an insight to what happened that would otherwise not be possible. Without Curtis' own account, however, which we'll simply never hear, it can only ever be an approximation.
If you have no knowledge or interest in the man, the music or the times, then I doubt you would get that much out of it, unless you are serious film fan. On the other hand, any one who likes Joy Division's music, or is interested in music of this time or place, or simply wants to know more about Ian Curtis, will not be disappointed.
As well as the making of feature mentioned above there is the following bonus material:
* Commentary on feature film
* There are 3 extended performance scenes - in other words, the complete performance by the 'band' of 3 of the tracks that appear in an edited form in the film. These are 'Transmission' which they perform on the Granada TV programme, 'Leaders of Men' which they perform as Warsaw in a local venue and 'Candidate'.
* The video for 'Atmosphere', which was directed by Anton Corbijn (you know, the one with the little hooded people that look like the Sand People from Star Wars carrying giant photos of Curtis and the rest of the band)
* Photo gallery: these are stills from the film, which highlight how beautiful some of the shots are.
Amazon have the DVD listed at £11.98 and Play.com and HMV at £11.99. This is no bargain, but it is a reasonable price given the quality of the film. I also think that the film bears repeated viewings, due to the composition. I'm sure you'd get something more from it each time you watch.
Musicians have long proven to be a well of inspiration for film makers, and so it proves again with director Anton Corbjns telling of the story of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, Control. Based on the book of the same name, the first of Controls many successes is to make prior knowledge of the subject matter unnecessary. And while music is an important part of the film, the movie ultimately focuses in on the relationship between Curtis and his wife, Deborah. Its a moving and emotional rollercoaster, and one realised with exceptional skill and grace by Sam Riley and the ever-astonishing Samantha Morton in the lead acting roles. The former is someone very much to watch, the latter is surely long overdue an Oscar. Credit too must go to director Corbjn, though, who builds up Control with diligence and discipline. He shapes a musical biopic that distinguishes itself from its numerous contemporaries, and while it perhaps doesnt spend enough time with the Joy Division side of the story, its a film thats otherwise hard to fault. Control, ultimately, not only managed to sidestep many of the contrivances of the genre, but it also offers a raw, electric and emotional experience, and proved to be one of 2007s finest films. Dont miss it. --Jon Foster