DVD: Control

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Label: The Miriam Collection

Released: June 3, 2008

As a long time Joy Division fan, I was very interested in Control. Ian Curtis is one of those enigmatic, sad characters whose mystery was deepened by an early demise. Because the film was based on his wife’s memoir, I hoped it would provide insight into why Curtis burned so brightly and briefly, changing the face of rock music without even having the time to know that he had. Control proved to be all that I hoped…and then some.

As a film, it is nothing short of brilliant. Filmed entirely in black & white, the sharp shadows and stark scenes reflect both Joy Division’s music and the suburb of Manchester from which they hailed (or at least Curtis’ view of it). The depth of field is kept narrow throughout, reinforcing both the hollowness and the humanity of the story. There is an understated richness to Control‘s minimalism that mirrors Joy Division’s music. The cinematography alone makes the film worthwhile, easing even those not familiar with Joy Division into the story. The dialog and acting is never gratuitous, allowing the drama of the story itself to find full fruition. Anton Corbijn has made a film that transcends the “rock movie” genre. Control stands on its own.

The fact that it is based on Debbie Curtis’ story certainly raises some questions about the validity of the film’s conclusions. The fact that this story doesn’t vilify Ian Curtis though, should dispel those doubts. That’s not to say that Curtis isn’t a villain, just that the facts play that out more than Debbie Curtis’ telling of them. The fact is that he abandoned his wife and child for a rock band and a girlfriend. Did he really come home, look down at his smiling daughter and just walk away? Maybe not, but that at worst is a bit of dramatic license that illustrates what he really did. Ian Curtis made one fatal mistake: He thought life should imitate art, not the other way around. He paid for that with his life and Debbie and Natalie paid for it with their husband and father. Annick, Curtis’ girlfriend, paid for it with her 15 minutes of fame.

Having spent years with Joy Division, the movie may have ended my days with their music. My “Love Will Tear Us Apart” subway poster may never go back up on my wall. The movie is that good. The music is still amazing, but now I see that the human cost was just too great.

Rating: 10/10

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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