ControlSeptember 12, 2007
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.
Release Year: 2007
Rating: 7.7/10 (27,183 voted)
Critic's Score: 78/100
Stars: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Craig Parkinson
Ian Curtis is a quiet and rather sad lad who works for an employment agency and sings in a band called Warsaw. He meets a girl named Debbie whom he promptly marries and his band, of which the name in the meantime has been changed to Joy Division, gets more and more successful. Even though Debbie and he become parents, their relationship is going downhill rapidly and Ian starts an affair with Belgium Annik whom he met after one of the gigs and he's almost never at home. Ian also suffers from epilepsy and has no-good medication for it. He doesn't know how to handle the feelings he has for Debbie and Annik and the pressure the popularity of Joy Division and the energy performing costs him.
Writers: Deborah Curtis, Matt Greenhalgh
Alexandra Maria Lara
James Anthony Pearson
Martha Myers Lowe
(as Martha Myers-Lowe)
Release Date: 12 September 2007
Filming Locations: Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, UK
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: £252,426
(7 October 2007)
Did You Know?
The introduction that Tony Wilson gives the band as they're about to perform on Granada television is almost word for word taken from the actual broadcast. The song they play in the film is "Transmission", when in actuality they performed "Shadowplay" on Granada. They did perform "Transmission" live on TV but it was on the BBC without an introduction by Wilson, but instead a toned-down version of the poem used to introduce them at a gig in the film.
In a song performance scene the guitarist is using Marshall Speaker Cabinets (model 1960A and 1960B). The speaker cabinets were not introduced until several years after Ian's death.
Side effects include: drowsiness, apathy, and blurred vision… I'm taking two.
For every icon, there is an unknown predecessor who paves the way.
Before there was Kurt Cobain, there was Ian Curtis, lead singer of the
post-punk band, Joy Division. 27 years after his tragic death, Curtis'
incredible contribution to music is finally being recognized in Anton
Corbijn's film, "Control." It's only fitting that Corbijn serve as
director since it was his early photographs of Joy Division that
reflected the band's dark, introspective songs. Corbijn went on to
photograph and direct videos for such musical greats as U2, David
Bowie, Depeche Mode, R.E.M. and Metallica.
With his first feature film, Corbijn avoids the pitfalls of many music
video directors who inundate us with flashy and unnecessary edits and
camera angles. Instead, he lets the stark black and white of the film
tell the story of a lead singer tortured by epilepsy, guilt, depression
and suicidal thoughts. The use of black and white also captures the
factory town of Manchester, England in the late 1970s, a city crumbling
under industrial and economic stress. Manchester has since rebounded
and is once again thriving.
Curtis is played by relative newcomer, Sam Riley, who's quiet and
unassuming approach portrays an artist inspired by his heroes, David
Bowie and Iggy Pop. At a chance meeting following a Sex Pistols
concert, Curtis bonds with three fellow musicians to form the band.
As Joy Division begins to flourish, Ian's relationship with his young
wife, Deborah, continues to distance itself. Academy Award nominee,
Samantha Morton plays the confused wife trying to understand her
husband's depressed soul. The film is based on Deborah Curtis'
autobiography, "Touching From A Distance", so it comes as a surprise
that Morton's character does not have more scenes in the movie.
The key to Control is understanding Curtis' depression, which the film
accomplishes to near perfection. As he battles epilepsy, the young
singer lives in constant fear that his next seizure will be his last.
His only option is to swallow a daily cocktail of prescription drugs
with side effects so terrible, that most of us would rather tempt fate
than endure the aftermath of the pills.
Ian's spirit is also tortured by overwhelming guilt brought on by an
extra-marital affair with a part-time journalist, played by
Romanian-born Alexandra Maria Lara.
The most telling scene comes when Ian records an in-studio track for
the song "Isolation." While Curtis stoically sings into the microphone,
his band mates are distracted with the normal banter that typically
occurs in a studio.
"Mother, I tried, please believe me. I'm doing the best that I can. I'm
ashamed of the things I've been put through. I'm ashamed of the person
I am." The lyrics seem to fall on deaf ears except for those of the
sound engineer who refers to it as "genius." But Ian's brilliance is
also a desperate cry for help ignored by everyone in the studio.
The 27-year-old Riley does an excellent job of capturing Curtis'
aloofness on stage. Singers such as Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and even
the early years of Michael Stipe would often drift into the moment of
the song. But when Curtis performed, he immersed himself into his own
world where the music simply served as the soundtrack. Riley skillfully
draws us into Ian's dark world with a range of subtle head movements
and facial expressions to a whirling explosion of arm gyrations that
came to personify the singer's stage performances.
Overwhelmed with grief, shame and depression, Ian finally succumbs to
his demons at the young age of 23. He left behind a wife, a child and a
musical legacy that is finally receiving its just rewards nearly three
For those looking for a story solely about Joy Division, Control may
not be for you. But for those seeking an intuitive perspective into the
anguished spirit of one of the most influential alternative bands in
history, you will certainly find it in this depressing but incredibly