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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Review: Control (15) ★★★★
A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.


The problem I'm going to have with this review is that I really like Joy Division, and this film is about Ian Curtis who was the singer from Joy Division. I've tried to imagine what it would be like to watch this film having never heard of Joy Division. Because I like them, I imagined that it would be really good. It probably is. But maybe it's not. So, not a great start for any review really. 

The film is shot in black and white. Instantly suited to the notion of this being a story from the memory of the past. The dull Macclesfield estate that Ian grows up on paints the screen in grey, light grey and dark grey. Elegant yet fittingly vile. In amongst the gloom we watch Curtis the misfit develop his edge. We all remember those guys and girls at school who were "out there". They listened to weird music by bands we didn't know, and had piercings when we were still collecting stickers. They were friends with people from outside of school and seemed to have already grown up. I didn't know Ian Curtis, but Control plays him as I'd hope and expect he would have been.

We watch the band meet and develop through Curtis' undeniable focus and writing talent. The raw nature of young men growing as a band and competing with others for the highest of accolades is a tonic for those of us who are no longer 19 with the world at our feet. But while we revel in Joy Division, we are constantly pulled to Curtis' private life which is a cold egg sandwich on the side of a plate featuring mental illness, and a disintigrating marriage too early embarked upon. The constant fatiuging of the soul throughout the film is apowerful emotional string. We soar, then crash, soar higher and crash further. For an hour we catch a scent of Curtis' despair. The backdrop of dark music that Joy Division gave us is explicitly perfect - explicit because Curtis wrote it from the soul. We glimpse the reasons, motivations and those thousand yards stares, that brought Joy Division into existance. 

Would this mean anything if you didn't like Joy Division? I think it would. I've walked a mile in many peoples shoes. Andy Dufresne, John Coffee, John Miller, Joseph Merrick are among hundreds if not thousands who've spent an hour and half painting their often sad existances for me, and Control is no different to these films. In fact it's fantastic. The story of quiet desperation, something doubtless we've all felt some level of at one time or another. I would have liked maybe another twenty minutes, perhaps more of Ian's youth and that all-important moulding that he went through - certainly the film had the capacity for it. Otherwise I loved it, despite the sadness I felt.

After you watch this film, the next time you hear World in Motion, think of Ian.


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