Control

Making the leap from photographer to music video director to film director, Anton Corbijn’s feature length debut ‘Control’ is quite simply stunning. Shot entirely in black and white it tell the story of Ian Curtis the lead singer with Manchester band Joy Division but its also much more than that it also tells of one mans journey into the heart of darkness (Apocalypse Now is mentioned in the film) a journey of fear, paranoia, illness and depression. Curtis has been played in films before but only as bit parts (24 hour party people etc) here he is portrayed breathtakingly by Sam Riley who played Mark E Smith in 24 hour party people and when he first appears on the screen I have to admit I wasn’t convinced but as Ian the person grows so too does Riley into the role and at times he has him so down to a tee its hard to imagine its not the real Curtis up there. The rest of the band are pretty good as well but are only really second fiddle to Riley but you have to give them credit for learning all the songs and playing them live rather than mime. Samantha Morton is great as the put upon wife Deborah and Craig Parkinson is convincing enough as Tony Wilson but apart from Riley’s stand out performance its Toby Kebbell as manager Rob Gretton who has some of the best lines and has come so far since his role in ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’. The cinematography is a visual feast for the eyes, being shot in black and white adds to the mood and gives a haunting feel that echo’s the music and lyrics of the band, it also means (and I guess its Corbijn’s photography background) that so many of the shots in the movie could be still images they are framed so well. Although never really explained in terms of answers, Curtis’s illness from the seizures to the depression and the hopeless sense of falling apart reminded me of Catherine Deneuve in Polanski’s ‘Repulsion’ another black and white film that deals with madness. I guess that treating mental illnesses was still in its infancy in the seventies, yes we’d stopped electro-shocking people but medications were still being developed and trialled. It seems it was very easy for Curtis to reach a certain point what with juggling home, life on the road, his condition and the pressure of increasing fame but when it came to helping him out he really was on his own and did feel a sense of ‘isolation’. But with a story that has a widely known end point its more about the journey and here Corbjin punctures the narrative with some truly witty moments while leading up the incredibly moving and inevitable finale. Handled brilliantly by all involved this is another example of a great British film that deserves all the accolades it is receiving and if this performance is anything to go by expect Riley to be very big indeed.

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