Joy Division and "Control"
The Ian Curtis biopic and the powerful music of Joy Division
Joy Division are one of my favourite bands of all time. Most of you who are unfamiliar with the band will probably know the bleak tune "Love Will Tear Us Apart". So depressing, yet so addictive, I keep copies of their albums all over the show: in the car, in my room, on the flash drives I save my work on... just incase I get "that" craving. I find myself humming tunes like "Transmission", "She’s Lost Control" and "Isolation" at random times in my day. Bands that pay homage to their legacy such as The Editors and Interpol just don’t measure up to the power of Joy Division’s music. Where Nirvana turned everyone’s attention to grunge, Joy Division got everyone listening to the depression-ridden chime of post-punk and early goth music.
I also finally watched "Control", the black and white biopic of the late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. Directed by Anton Corbijn and released in 2007, it stars Sam Riley as Ian and was based on the writings of Ian’s widow Debbie Curtis as well as Corbijn’s own encounters and conversations with the band.
Movie aside, this is the basic synopsis of the Joy Division story:
So four guys watch a Sex Pistols gig and are inspired to start a punk band in the early 70s. They become hugely popular very quickly, and gradually develop into a style that is known as post-punk. Ian Curtis, their singer, known for his baritone voice and depressing lyrics adds the dark intense element to the band’s uplifting and often dancey music. Suffering from epilepsy, and struggling with his marriage, Ian’s depression and family problems take its toll on the band, yet gives the band’s music its appealing character. Commercially active from 1974, Joy Division is no more when Ian’s depression becomes too much to handle and he hangs himself in the kitchen of his own house in 1980. The remaining members of the band reform as New Order, popular for their dancefloor pop hit "Blue Monday".
Although depression and disappointment were the movie’s leit motifs, I don’t think that should have extended into my impressions of the movie itself. I think it would have been better if I didn’t already know how it ends before I first watched it. But surely everyone keen to watch it knows how it e nds? I doubt Joy Division fans think Ian is still recording. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad flick to check out. They outline the story quite well, including the contrasting characters in Ian’s life and his affair with Belgian Annik Honore. It seems as though they recreated the band’s performances instead of lip-syncing the actual tracks. This wasn’t badly done, but I don’t think Sam Riley has the famous Ian Curtis dance down at all. He has got an inkling though.
The black and white tone of the entire movie doesn’t help make the movie any better, but it does create the mood that Joy Division were famous for as they blanketed the alternative world with depressing tunes that you can dance to.