© Capelight Pictures
Many legends surround the death of Joy Division's singer Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), who died at the age of just 24. Anton Corbijn's directorial debut "Control", which is based on the autobiography of Ian Curtis' wife Deborah and thus on the memories of a contemporary witness, now provides new explanations for this deed. However, those who expect a film about the wild rock star life a la "The Doors" or "24 Hour Party People" will be disappointed: "Control" is rather a character study, the sensitive portrait of a melancholy boy with a strong love of music and a great passion for romance. The young Ian not only quotes long-winded Wordsworth poems, but also writes his own texts. When he's not wandering around the houses with his buddies trying to get high with stolen drugs, he listens awestruck to David Bowie or celebrates at concerts. From the outside, Ian is surprisingly down-to-earth: He has a steady job and at the age of 19 marries his childhood sweetheart Debbie (Samantha Morton), with whom he moves into a small terraced house. Four years later, his little daughter is born. Despite the family situation, Ian's passion for music remains unbroken: When he learns that acquaintances are looking for a singer for their band, he answers. The founder members of Joy Division meet for the first time at a Sex Pistols concert in Manchester.
© Capelight Pictures
It begins a wild time, in which the band gives its first concerts, records and takes by Ian's charismatic performances increasingly gaining popularity. A success that has its price: Constantly touring Ian increasingly loses hold. He alienates himself from his wife and child, has to quit his job and withdraws more and more into himself. Even an affair with the young music journalist Annik (Alexandra Maria Lara) can no longer help the musician, who suffers from constant attacks of epilepsy. Healthily badly hit and depressed, Ian finally kills shortly before the long awaited America tour.
From the star photographer to the director
When Anton Corbijn was asked if he wanted to make a film about Joy Division, he initially had reservations: "You do not want to make a bad movie, because it would take a long time for Ian Curtis to get the film that he deserves." Understandable, because the lead singer is an icon of the post-punk movement and influenced countless, even contemporary bands, such as Editors or The Killers, with his haunting music and stage performance. The film adaptation of Curtis life was thus a challenge for which Corbijn but already seemed predestined by his own biography: A Joy Division album inspired him in the late 70s to move to London, where he met Ian Curtis and his bandmates several times in person to take pictures of them, with whom he laid the foundation for his own career as a photographer and director of music videos, including for U2, Depeche Mode or Nirvana.
© Capelight Pictures
Perhaps it is Corbijn's first-hand personal experience that makes "Control" particularly authentic, almost documentary: concert performances were recreated down to the last detail, the actors sing and play live. The film is shot consistently in black and white and the filming was partly relocated to original locations. Also, the great acting performance of the previously unknown Sam Rileys reinforces the documentary character of the film, because Riley not only looks like Curtis, he sings like him and manages to touch the inner conflicts and desperation of the silent Curtis touching and credible on the screen to ban. Too bad that Corbijn partly clings too much to proven facts, because the dialogues are rather sparse. So one learns little about the thoughts of the silent Curtis.
Conclusion: With "Control" Corbijn has succeeded in creating a moving biography that always stays close to its protagonist and portrays its fate in impressive pictures. Not only a must for Joy Division fans!
Tip: Who does not want to end the time travel after the movie, the soundtrack with original songs by Joy Division and Iggy Pop, David Bowie or New Order is recommended.
TEXT: Elisabeth Kaulen PICTURE MATERIAL: Capelight Pictures