Oh wow. Just saw Control, Anton Corbijn's debut feature film about the unraveling of the life of Ian Curtis -- the woeful lead singer of Joy Division. I haven't written for a while, but after I saw Control, I knew I couldn't go to sleep without writing. It's experiences such as this that make a blog worth keeping.
I've never really been a big Joy Division fan, but I've always known their history by way of obsessing about New Order. So the general subject matter of the movie wasn't foreign to me. And much of the specifics weren't either because I had read three glowing write-ups about the film (here, here and here). Usually, that's a pretty good formula for a letdown. But I was blown away. Far away.
The movie made me feel. It tugged my heartstrings hard every which way. I felt joy. I felt disdain. I felt sympathy. And I felt desolation. I seemingly felt what Ian felt.
The last movie to elicit such a reaction from me was Lost in Translation. It has a certain understated elegance that's bolstered by a sublime synchronization of moods between songs and scenes. And Control shares that convention. Joy Division songs have such a haunting quality that they may as well have been written with the intention of being used as the soundtrack for a movie about Ian's life. When I heard the initial synthesized drone of "Atmosphere" as the closing credits rolled, I felt a sinking feeling within -- a feeling not unlike the sensation of falling experienced while in descent on a roller coaster. A feeling also not unlike that experienced when breaking up. It's as if Joy Division had recorded an elegy for Ian's funeral.
I read that the cast actually performed the music in the concert scenes (in front of audiences of actual Joy Division fans). They sounded quite convincing. Often times, they sounded so good that I'd buy their album if they were to make one. Perhaps it's just that they were performing Joy Division songs with the help of modern production techniques. Maybe that's what the new remastered Joy Division albums will sound like when they're released later this month.
Sam Riley, who played Ian, was particularly impressive in his performance -- both as a musician and as an actor. He rarely had to say anything to communicate a sense of despair. That vacant, forlorn look on his face always said plenty.
Of course, Anton's brilliant direction surely helped. My favorite shot is that of Ian looking at his newborn sitting in her crib. The shot was framed from the perspective of the newborn, such that Ian appears to be behind bars as he looks at his child. That shot mastefully captures the constrictive nature of Ian's existence as he must have seen it.
I do wonder whether I'd have enjoyed the movie as much if I weren't a fan of New Order and, by extension, Joy Division. I suspect that it wouldn't have been as awe-inspiring, but it still would've been engrossing. (Kinda like Lost in Translation. The music elevated the movie from the status of pretty good to that of unforgettable.)
It's not often that a movie makes me feel. And I'm anxious to feel it all again soon.