Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Alexandra Maria Lara
Deborah Curtis, Matt Greenhalgh
I still remember the day Kurt Cobain died.
I cried. All day. I couldn't stop. I was consumed by an indescribable sadness that MY generation had lost one of its most authentic, raw and powerful voices. I was pissed off...I didn't know if he'd killed himself or if someone else had been responsible. I just knew that one of the people with whom I identified the most was dead and I began to even wonder if I could survive.
I've long struggled with my own bouts of depression, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and my fits of being unable to balance it all in my mind. As a writer, actor, director and speaker I've often found myself practically drowning in my own life experiences only to somehow rise to the surface gasping for air.
My gut feeling is that I'd have felt much the same as I felt with Kurt Cobain had I been more aware of Joy Division when its lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide in 1980 at the age of 23.
"Control," a film based upon Curtis's life currently making the rounds of the arthouse circuit, is equal parts musical biopic and human interest drama. Curtis (played to perfect by Sam Riley) somehow finds himself lead singer of a band despite being disconnected from virtually everything in his life, including his young bride Deborah (a stellar Samantha Morton).
The film centers largely upon the marriage of Ian and Deborah, partly owing to the fact that it is based upon Deborah's book "Touching From a Distance," and partly owing to the fact that Deborah seems to be about the only sign of stability in Ian's life.
"Control" is shot in shades of black, white and gray by Anton Corbijn, a photographer largely responsible for creating Curtis's handsome, brooding image to the world during the band's brief heyday leading up to Curtis's suicide shortly before their first U.S. tour.
On a certain level, Corbijn's approach to filmmaking reminds me of Gus Van Sant's loose take on Kurt Cobain, "Last Days." Corbijn's use of black and white, Joy Division music and extended periods of silence help to create a more vivid and realistic look at the world in which Curtis lived. Curtis, who was epileptic and was known to have seizures while onstage, lived a remarkably isolative that exploded when he had an affair with a Belgian writer (Alexandra Maria Lara).
Riley's performance as Curtis is so spot-on perfect that it puts Jamie Foxx's Oscar-winning performance in "Ray" to shame. Samantha Morton, one of this decade's most underrated actresses, is completely and utterly convincing as Curtis's teenage bride despite being 30-years-old herself.
Familiarity with Curtis or Joy Division is not even remotely necessary to appreciate "Control," though it's difficult to fathom any Joy Division fan not being completely and utterly in love with this film.
A shockingly sad and emotional look at one man's far too short life, "Control" is a sad reminder that Curtis may well have truly been right...love will tear us apart.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic