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Ian Curtis is a quiet and rather sad lad who works for an employment agency and sings in a band called Warsaw. He meets a girl named Debbie whom he promptly marries and his band, of which the name in the meantime has been changed to Joy Division, gets more and more successful. Even though Debbie and he become parents, their relationship is going downhill rapidly and Ian starts an affair with Belgium Annik whom he met after one of the gigs and he's almost never at home. Ian also suffers from epilepsy and has no-good medication for it. He doesn't know how to handle the feelings he has for Debbie and Annik and the pressure the popularity of Joy Division and the energy performing costs him. Written by
Marco van Hoof <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I saw this film last night then I went home and read a lot of the comments here. I think some things have been missed between the glowing reviews and the bitter disappointments.
First, it is a truly beautiful film and I found the acting uniformly excellent. That has already been said plenty of times.
More interesting to me are the comments about this not being an accurate or fair portrait of Ian Curtis and those around him. I've read plenty of accounts that characterize Ian and his band-mates as relentless practical jokers -- the book Torn Apart by Mick Middles and Lindsay Reade is full of these anecdotes. But I also think it's naive to expect a film like this to be anything close to a fair and objective telling of anyone's life. This is a dramatic interpretation, not a documentary.
In addition to the multiple meanings the title has for the characters in the film, this film is itself an exercise in CONTROL: Deborah Curtis's control over her husband's legacy; the surviving band members' control over the public image of Joy Division.
No, the film does not show the laughs and good times the band had, but this is in keeping with all of Joy Division's work. Their entire output as a living band was highly stylized. Almost everything they issued was in stark black and white; their imagery was overwhelmingly bleak and funereal; and they certainly courted controversy with their name and imagery. All of which was very consciously and tightly CONTROLLED by the band and the people at Factory. They gave few interviews and preferred to let the work speak for itself.
My point is that this film simply continues that project. It is yet another highly stylized piece of work in the Joy Division canon. To paraphrase the Tony Wilson remark that has been cited elsewhere in these comments -- when you have the choice between the legend and the facts, go with the legend. Their work has always had an epic, legendary quality. This movie is absolutely in keeping with that aesthetic.
I think it's also worth noting that Corbijn was a participant in shaping the Joy Division legacy from the very start -- his photographs of the band helped shape their image and his video for "Atmosphere" set the tone for how their legacy would be preserved. CONTROL is simply another collaboration with the band and their music. An extension of that original project.
I think that ultimately this film is an excellent piece of work. Just as Joy Division produced music of astonishing beauty and resonance out of the misery of life in post-industrial England, this film turns personal pain and loss into a powerful piece of art.
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