Opening 10 Jan 2008
The story is as simple as a real person’s short life can be. Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), Bernard Sumner (James Anthony Pearson) and Peter Hook (Joe Anderson) live in the northeast of England. They go to rock concerts, work low-paying jobs and dream of playing in a band. One day they meet, write some songs, practice, hire a manager and work their way through the clubs under the band name Joy Division. Here the similarities with other young people end. They become a huge success in the 1970s with songs such as Love Will Tear Us Apart and She’s Lost Control. They are on their way to world fame, and then it all falls apart.
The film focuses on Ian Curtis, the singer and songwriter. He marries Deborah Woodruff (Samantha Morton) at age 19, has a daughter and falls in love with a Belgian groupie/journalist. He suffers from epilepsy, depression, the expectations of two women, and the responsibility of family. Sam Riley portrays a young man who, with help all around him, still can not climb out of his black hole. Debby files for divorce. The band is booked to play a triumphant tour in the U.S., and Curtis commits suicide. He is 23.
This is Dutch director Anton Corbijn’s first film. Already with 25 years of experience as a photographer of rock groups, he knew precisely where to place the camera to pinpoint the emotions, conflicts, and suffering of young Ian. Most amazing is that these actors actually sing the songs themselves, perfectly. Some songs are added by New Order, the band which regrouped after the death of Curtis. Also on the soundtrack are the Sex Pistols, Roxy Music, and David Bowie. Control won two prizes at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, won best British newcomer film and best actor at the Edinburgh Festival, and was voted best film by Hamburg critics at the 2007 Filmfest Hamburg. Yes, it is excellent, but the viewers who are totally swooning over this film, e.g., in Hamburg during the Filmfest and in the British Guardian
newspaper, are those who grew up with the band. They know every song, still have their old Joy Division t-shirts, and delight in the nostalgia of their younger selves 30 years ago. If you fit in this category or even if you love rock music, see the film. (Becky Tan)