Komakino – Joy Division

Very fortunate indeed last night to pay a visit to The Civic in Auckland for a screening of the new Ian Curtis bio-pic ‘Control‘.

Carefully crafted in black and white by Dutch photographer turned director Anton Corbijn (he filmed the Joy Division video for ‘Atmosphere’, and his photos of U2, Beefheart and others were an important part of my NME-obsessed youth) to “reflect the mood of the era” it’s an unsettling but strangely familiar experience for those of us who grew up in the North of England.

Based on Deborah Curtis’ book ‘Touching From A Distance‘ and co-produced by Factory Records supremo Tony Wilson, it’s constructed by those perhaps best placed to give us an insight into Curtis’ world.. but it’s their view, Curtis not being here to defend himself.

Not that he would or could.. Sam Riley plays it perfectly, the troubled young man simply not having either the life experience or the support he needed to work his way out of danger. Too much taken on too soon in his personal life, too many demands in his professional one, something had to give. Add to that fear of dying.. medical advice for his epilepsy being ‘here are some drugs, try them all until we find one that works’, compounded by the death of an epileptic of Curtis’ acquaintance.. that sword hung over his head too. You watch, and beg for someone to sit down and talk to him, work things out, and it doesn’t happen.

Someone told me he wasn’t a very likeable person. The compassion shown as he went about his day job, the childlike innocence and tenderness with which he approached his early relationship with Deborah would bely that. He just didn’t have the vocabulary, the nous, to look at his own life from the outside, he internalised it all.. until it was too late. Seeking solace in a doomed relationship with Annik Honore (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) and comforted by her presence, he nevertheless couldn’t explain his feelings even to her.

Samantha Morton‘s Deborah is an extraordinary portrayal: extraordinary in showing us the ordinary.. unsophisticated, simple, loving even when things are collapsing all around her, but again so young to have to cope with all the trials of both their lives.

It’s moving and bleak, Corbijn tampering with the focus and contrast to wash over the screen when the plot requires it.. it’s genuinely thrilling in the performance sequences, and it has those infrequent but golden moments of Manchester humour: the ebullient Toby Kebbell as manager Rob Gretton almost steals the film. But it’s Riley’s show.

Go see it. Here’s the director (YouTube).