Control is a British/American film that is a biographical take on the life of Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis. The band Joy Division is a 1970’s band in the post-punk genre. The film is directed by Anton Corbijn, the photographer for the band, and marks his directorial debut.
The film is an adaptation of the biography written by Ian Curtis’ widow, Deborah. The name of the biography was called Touching From A Distance. The screenplay was written by Matt Greenhalgh.
The film was coproduced by Deborah Curtis as well as Tony Wilson, who released Joy Division’s albums through his album, Factory Records.
The film begins with Ian Curtis and Deborah Woodruff getting married in their native town of Macclesfield at the ages of 19 and 18 respectively. This occurs in the year 1975. Curtis commits himself to writing poetry in isolation. The friends that will become Joy Division attend a Sex Pistols concert in 1976 and then Ian volunteers to be the singer. They first name themselves Warsaw, and Terry Mason moves to a managerial role at the introduction of new drummer Stephen Morris. The band begins in 1977 and renames themselves Joy Division soon after.
Joy Division sign to the label Factory Records having won a Battle of The Bands in which the label owner, (and co-producer of the film Tony Wilson,) is watching.
In 1978 Ian is diagnosed as suffering from epilepsy after suffering a seizure. This would be his undoing later.
By 1980, he has confided in reporter Annik that his marriage is on the rocks. He begins an affair with the journalist, which continues until his wife discovers the affair. The affair continues after but ends not too long after – when Deborah finds that the affair is ongoing, she demands a divorce.
The film ends after Ian Curtis begs his wife not to divorce him. She refuses. He orders her to leave, and then writes her a letter in solitude. He then suffers a seizure. Later he hangs himself. Debbie discovers him, and cries in the street for help. The film ends with Curtis’ cremation.
The Guardian film reviewer Peter Bradshaw considered the film the best of the year. Roger Ebert gave the film a positive rating, stating that it is a great biopic and a great music film and a great story of a person’s life.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that the film Control has a positive rating of 87% based on aggregated reviews from industry experts. Metacritic reports the film as having an average score of 78 out of 100, based on 27 reviews,
- Sam Riley stars as Ian Curtis, the lead singer and main protagonist of the film. Riley was an unknown artist before playing Curtis in Control. The role was originally intended for Cillian Murphy, however Murphy was later considered too short to play Ian Curtis.
- Samantha Morton stars as Deborah Curtis, the wife of Ian Curtis. The two married very young, and had a tumultuous relationship due to Curtis’ stardom as well as his affair with Annik Honore. The film itself is based on the real-life Deborah Curtis account which she published as Touching From a Distance.
- Alexandra Maria Lara stars as Annik Honoré, who is a journalist who works for the Belgian Embassy. Her long running affair with Ian Curtis is a central plot point, which causes strain within his marriage to Deborah.
- Joe Anderson plays Peter Hook, Joy Division’s bass player.
- Toby Kebbell plays Rob Gretton, the band’s manager. In the movie, he is a character portrayed for comedic relief.
- Craig Parkinson plays Tony Wilson, the label owner who released all of Joy Division’s albums.
- James Anthony Pearson plays Bernard Sumner, the keyboardist and guitarist of Joy Division.
- Harry Treadaway plays Stephen Morris, the drummer and percussionist of Joy Division.
- Andrew Sheridan is Terry Mason, the manager of the band previous to Rob Gretton. (However, he still stays tour manager)
- Robert Shelly plays Twinny, Joy Division’s roadie.
- Matthew McNulty plays Nick Jackson
- Ben Naylor plays Martin Hannett, the producer and co-founder of Factory Records with Tony Wilson.
- John Cooper Clarke portrays himself, a British punk-style performance poet. He performs in a gig during the film.
- Lotti Closs plays Gillian Gilbert, the girlfriend of Stephen Morris.
- Herbert Grönemeyer has a cameo role as a GP.
Corbijn served as the band’s photographer. He serves as the director for this biopic, and had been a fan since the 1970’s. He directed their music video for the 1988 rerelease of Atmosphere. Corbijn also paid half of the 4.5 million euros of the films budget himself.
The film’s producers were Todd Eckert and Orian Williams. Deborah Curtis, Tony Wilson, who died months before the film’s release, are listed as the two co-producers.
The script was finished in May 2005. The filming took place shortly afterward in Nottingham, as well as on location in Manchester and Macclesfield. The shooting also took place in various European locations to simulate the band’s European tours.
The final scene is shot in the exact place where Ian Curtis memorial stone is located in Macclesfield, England.
The Weinstein Company was in charge of releaseing the film. The DVD was released in the UK on 11th February 2008, the Australian release was 12 March of the same year, and the DVD was released for the North American market on 3rd June, also on the same year.
Curtis’ bandmates from Joy Division provided incidental music for the biographical film. The film also contains music by the following artists:
- The Velvet Underground
- David Bowie
- The Killers
- Iggy Pop
- Roxy Music
- John Cooper Clarke
- New Order
In addition, all songs performed live during the film are produced by the actors themselves. The actors also cover the Joy Division song “Transmission” for the soundtrack. New Order, Joy division’s newest incarnation (without Ian Curtis due to his death) provides incidental music for the background of the film.
The soundtrack album for the film was released by Warner Bros and Rhino labels on the 30th October 2007.