Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
Control’s cover is a black and white shot of Sam Riley as Ian Curtis, with a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. It is a nice shot, but I would have liked a bit more about the fact that he is Ian Curtis of Joy Division. That sounds strange, but maybe even a shot of him behind the microphone, or on stage, just to express the idea that this is about Ian Curtis. Maybe I am making too much of it, but many people may not know that Control is about Joy Division and Curtis. When I showed my wife the cover (who knows nothing about Joy Division) she immediately asked what the movie was about. When I explained it was about Ian Curtis of Joy Division, she asked “what is Joy Division?” A bit more context would have been nice, but it is still a good cover.
The menus are really well done, with different size black and whites bits from the film rotating into the screen with menu choices beneath. It looked great, as did almost everything about this film.
The Miriam Collection disk holds quite a lot of extras for control. First of all there is a making of Featurette that is about 20 minutes long, and covers some of the basics with Anton Corbijn. It is a solid making of, with quite a lot of insight as to why Corbijn chose this material for his first film, the selection of the actors, and the look and feel that really makes this movie work. Also included is an interview with Corbijn which goes into even more depth about his involvement with Joy division and his move to be closer to the band. It includes some of the photos that he took of the band at the height of their career, and furthers the idea that Corbijn was the right man for this movie.
There are three music videos included, with a live version of Joy Division’s song Transmissions, a video for their song Atmosphere that was done posthumously in 1988 by Corbijn, and the video for the Killer’s remake of Joy Division’s Shadowplay, that was done for the movie.
There is also a section of extended scenes from the film, which include three songs that were done by the actors as the band. They are remarkably good as a Joy Division cover band, and the videos are a nice addition to the disk. Finally, there are some still shots from the movie, which are great seeing as how they are more of Corbijn’s work. Finally there are some trailers and a section about all of the other Control schwag that you can run out and buy.
All in all a pretty good collection of extras for this DVD.
Control is Anton Corbijn’s film about the life of Ian Curtis, of the Manchester Band Joy Division, which was in existence from 1976 until 1980. Corbijn, who is best known as a music photographer and video maker, chose to make this biopic due to the fact that Joy Division was a huge influence in his life. Corbijn describes in one of the extras that upon first hearing Joy Division, he packed his bags and moved from Holland to London, to be close to the spot where Joy Division was making this style of music. Two weeks into the move, he was backstage and met the band, where a friendship with the band was created.
The love that Corbijn has for Joy Division is apparent as the attention to detail and overall treatment that Corbijn gives this film is breathtaking. Control is based on the book by Ian Curtis’ wife Deborah entitled “Touching from a Distance” about the struggles that Ian had as he rose to fame.
I will say upfront that I am a fan of Joy Division, and I am also a fan of Anton Corbijn, so I am somewhat predisposed to like this film. That being said, I think this was a well done movie, and I think even those who are have not heard of Joy Division before will be able to enjoy Control, as it is a well told, beautifully presented film.
The movie starts off as Curtis (Sam Riley) struggles to find his way as a teenager in England in the 1960’s. Curtis falls in love with his best mate’s girl, Deborah (Samantha Morton), and soon marries her. The two decide to have a baby and their lives seem pretty basic until Ian joins the band Warsaw as their lead singer. It is apparent that Curtis is a creative force, and soon the band is transformed into Joy Division, and they start to make an impact on the music scene.
The rest of the movie involves the rise and fall of Joy Division, and the rise and fall of Ian Curtis, who sees his marriage fall apart after he starts seeing a Belgian reporter Annik (Alexandra Maria Lara). Curtis is also diagnosed with epilepsy after he starts having fits. His outlook changes as his world seems to take on a different feel. He looks and seems like an outsider in his own home, and the struggles seem to take their toll until he simply can’t bare to go on at all, and just as the band is set to leave to tour America, Curtis takes his own life.
Control is a beautiful looking film, and portrays the band, Curtis, and Deborah with a type of realism that most music biopics seem to lack. Sam Riley not only had the sound and look of Ian Curtis down, but he comes across as an everyman, not a glamorous rock star, which could have really ruined this movie. This is a gritty, real story, and Corbiijn really captures that with the use of the black and white imagery and the cast of characters.
My only gripe about the film is the fact that more time could have been spent on the band itself. By making this about Ian and Deborah, it made the film seem to drag in some spots, which I think could have been interspersed more with the interaction of the bandmates instead of merely including them as they played gigs. A minor gripe as I said, but I could have done with more information about Ian and the boys as opposed to merely watching them play gigs, which was fun to see, but perhaps slightly overdone.
All in all a great first venture for Anton Corbijn, who is best known for making videos for U2, Nirvana, and Depeche Mode, as well as being involved in numerous still photos for bands over the years. He really was able to deliver a beautiful looking story to the screen, without making it seem like a long music video. Corbijn was obviously personally invested in this story, and I think he did a remarkable job in presenting the tragic story of Joy Division and Ian Curtis.
Video & Audio: 8/10
I watched the standard edition Control DVD, and Anton Corbijn presents it in black and white (even though it was apparently filmed in color, and then changed over to black and white. The result is amazing. First of all the clarity of the film is superb. It is crisp and bright, and Corbijn used black and white because all of the photos that he remembers of Joy Division are black and white, so he felt the only way to do a movie about the band was in black and white.
I must also talk a bit about Corbijn’s vision. The framing and the setup for the entire movie was exceptional. If you want a masterclass in composition and lighting, this is your film. The shots are simply gorgeous.
The audio again is amazing, with the levels of the music and the dialogue being very good. There was not a lot of use for the surround sound in this type of film, but the music was brilliantly done, and even the sound of the band’s concert or studio pieces were well done. It doesn’t hurt that I am a Joy Division fan, so I really thought the soundtrack, which also features David Bowie and the Killers was ewll done. Overall very solid on both the audio and visual levels.
Control is a great film if you are into either Joy Division or music in general. It was a bit long in the tooth in some parts, and I felt like I would have liked more about the band itself, but overall I highly recommend this movie. It is at the least a rental, but if you are a fan of Joy Division, this is a must have. Well done, without going too far. Control is a sad but heartfelt biopic of a sad but brilliant man.
Overall Score 8/10