Control (2007)

Photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn turns the short life of his friend Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, into a mesmerising black and white elegy.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • Touching from a Distance Alternative

Cast & Credits

Introduction

“I really enjoyed it – but it was like having your heart stamped on. The weirdest thing was at the end, when it really hurt and everybody started clapping. It would’ve been nice to have a dignified silence.”
Peter Hook, Joy Division bassist, interviewed in XFM magazine

The short-lived but supremely influential band Joy Division owed their image to three people: designer Peter Saville and photographers Kevin Cummings and Anton Corbijn. All worked in black and white, an aesthetic decision maintained by Corbijn when he chose the band’s frontman and lyricist Ian Curtis as the subject of his debut feature.

Tracing Curtis’s life from pretentious teenage scribbler in 1973 to his suicide in 1980 at twenty-three, the film shows how the band’s music grew out of Manchester’s post-industrial landscape and captured the mood of the times, when the exhilaration of punk had given way to something more ominous and fearful. A dead ringer for a man that Corbijn knew personally, Sam Riley is outstanding as Curtis, and the decision to let the actors play their own instruments creates a vivid impression of what Joy Division must have been like live – very different from the chilly precision of their records.

There are three excellent but very different films about Joy Division: this, Michael Winterbottom’s rollicking 24 Hour Party People (2002) and Grant Gee’s just-the-facts documentary Joy Division (2007).

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