Very emotional and engaging, Control is an original and memorable biopic about the life of singer Ian Curtis. It successfully avoided all the usual pitfalls and despite the subject this is not a depression porn movie. Ian was the frontman for the British post-punk band Joy Division. Their music influenced a lot of other bands, just check out the covers of their songs on YouTube. I always considered them a part of that depressive rock-pack along with The Cure, The Smiths and New Order, never really delving any deeper into their music. I was depressive enough as it was and I thought that their music might do me in. Just remembered the emo kids from South Park.
Plus, I was really immature and considered bands like this pussies and people who listen to them doing so only to appear emotional and quirky for girls. I, as a real man, listened to Doom Metal and bands like My Dying Bride and Saturnus. As I got older, I started listening to these bands as well and started really enjoying their music. And I could see what was the appeal, this brotherhood of fucked-up people and the release of emotion. I was brought up to push my feelings down as a man and satan forbid I would express them or talk about them. As it usually happens, I digress. Let’s get back to the movie.
On a surface, Control seems like that pretentious and melodramatic movie that you should avoid but it’s far from it. Shot in black in white and featuring excellent cinematography, it’s visually stunning. A lot of the scenes look like they could be on the cover of an album.
But don’t think that this is some surreal environment because it’s not. It seems very real and authentic as we will be looking at the dreary environment of the seventies in the UK. The focus of the story, however, remains strongly fixed on Ian and his life. It deals with the subject of depression in a very honest way, without the usual emotional milking that follows movies like this.
Control’s director, Anton Corbijn actually took photographs of Joy Division back in the day and has personal experience not only with them but with the entire music scene of that era. The script of the movie is based on a book written by Debbie, Ian’s wife, so we get a real insider’s look into his life. Sam Riley’s performance here was magnificent and if you look at some of the Joy Division live performances you can see for yourself just how good he was.
This was a role that could be easily overplayed, but Sam remained firmly rooted in reality with his committed acting. Melancholic and jarringly intense, Control is a different type of biopic. We usually consider musicians so far removed from ourselves that they sometimes even seem superhuman. This movie cuts through that notion, bringing us closer in, almost as voyeurs. Finally, you should watch this movie if for nothing else than for a phenomenal song by John Cooper Clarke – Evidently Chickentown. Here’s just a small taste:
The fucking pubs are fucking dull The fucking clubs are fucking full Of fucking girls and fucking guys With fucking murder in Their eyes A fucking bloke is fucking stabbed Waiting for a fucking cab You fucking stay at fucking home The fucking neighbors fucking moan Keep The fucking racket down This is fucking Chickentown
Director: Anton Corbijn
Writers: Deborah Curtis, Matt Greenhalgh
Cast: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, Harry Treadaway, Craig Parkinson
Fun Facts: The actors playing Joy Division learned how to play the songs themselves. So the scenes where the band is playing live is not from tape, but actually the actors playing live.