Control (revisiting a review of the film about the short life of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis)

The short lives of Ian Curtis and his band Joy Division are embroidered parts of musical history, but while the band rose from the ashes of their singers untimely and tragic death to soar even newer musical and commerical heights as New Order, the memory of Ian Curtis was freeze framed in time for us to wonder if we would ever get close to knowing about the mysterious tortured soul who touched us by his music…but from a distance.

After the colourful brilliant, but cartoonish 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, which magnificently captured the whole chaotic Manchester scene in all its psychotic glory, as well as including Joy Division and New Order portrayed by, reasonably, well knows British TV actors, CONTROL came as a refreshing, bleak, black and white slap in the face.  A bit like their music.

This film may have been the directorial debut from ANTON CORBJIN, but in hindsight it makes perfect sense for the guy who direced classic videos for U2, Depeche Mode and, of course, Joy Division, to easily move into the film world and deliver a passionate and depressingly beautiful insight into the man behind the music.

SAM RILEY is a revelation as Ian Curtis, with a raw, emotional portrayal of the singer that many people have never encountered, which makes the inevitable ending all the more heartbreaking.

With excellent backing from SAMANTHA MORTON as his wife Deborah, we spend two hours in Ian’s deep, poetic lonliness, as he tries to come to terms with his dark flourishing talent as well as trying to get a grasp of, not only his battle with epilepsy, but also an overwhelming battle between head and heart.  Of what he feels is right in his head and what he feels achingly is right in his heart.

In his head he knew that he loved his wife, but maybe he married too young, too quickly.  Had a child he loved, but wasn’t ready or fit for.

He had a love for music and found he had a talent to produce his own music that not only got out of his head, but got out of hand and became something he couldn’t handle.  By giving it out publicly he was leaving himself with nothing. Apart from doubt.

In his heart he feel in love with another woman who he felt got something of what he was feeling, or got something or what he was saying but he didn’t understand, and by being close to her he could maybe get closer to himself, and maybe try to get to the heart of the engulfing mental torture that was surrounding him.

All of this is subtly suggested by Sam Rileys open, human, portrayal of Ian but ultimately we will never truly know.

But for once a beating heart and a fragile soul have been placed as an image of a young lost talent where there was once only a long distant grey stare from a bedroom poster wall.

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