I'd heard about Anton Corbijn's movie Control a couple of years ago, when production was just beginning. As a big fan of Joy Division since I was in diapers, I was excited. No, thrilled is more the word.
So Maise and I, following a fabulous dinner at Carnivale, headed to the Music Box Theater, which my mom referred to as a "rat-infested shithole." And yeah, she was kind of right, but for whatever reason, it was the only theater in Chicago to be showing this movie. But I didn't care about the screen that was approximately the size of my TV or the less-than-comfortable seats because after two years of waiting, here was the tragic story of one of the most beloved bands of my youth. I was psyched.
Maybe too psyched. Honestly, after all that anticipation, I was waiting to be blown away by Ian Curtis's tragic story. But in reality, for the entire two hours, I was pretty bored. The movie, despite its fantastic JD soundtrack, plods along so slowly that at some points, I nearly dozed off. Ninety percent of this movie is Ian being morose: he glumly watches TV; he glumly smokes a cigarette; he glumly bounces from his wife to his mistress and back again. The moments of levity are so few and far between that this whole movie was just one big downer.
Samantha Morton's and Sam Riley's performances are stellar as Deborah and Ian, but the rest of the actors aren't really given much to work with. In fact, the rest of the characters are largely nonexistent. Even Annik Honore's role is rather thinly drawn seeing as she was the source of such turmoil in Ian's life.
Ian's struggles with epilepsy also seem like an afterthought. They are present, but that part of his life takes a backseat to the love triangle he created with Deborah and Annik. This thoroughly surprised me since it's my understanding that his condition was one of the major contributing factors to his suicide.
But my biggest gripe about this movie? Ian is completely unlikeable throughout most of it. When he starts out dating Deborah behind his best friend's back, eventually stealing her away, all I could think was, "That's an asshole thing to do!" Which is is how I felt about most of his subsequent actions. He treats Deborah poorly, expecting her to support his sorry, unemployed ass both emotionally and financially right after giving birth to their daughter. And he expects all of this while he trots through Europe dicking around with Annik. There are some rather touching moments when you think to yourself, "Aww...the poor guy," but there are so few of those moments that I left the movie thinking far less of him than I had previously. I didn't even find it that upsetting when he does eventually kill himself. In fact, I kind of felt relieved for Deborah, who could finally move on with her life.
All in all, the movie paints Ian as a self-absorbed, selfish, depressing bloke who just happened to create some fantastic, highly influential music. Whether this is an accurate portrayal of his life, of course we'll never really know for sure. I realize that Deborah's autobiography Touching from a Distance was the source material for the movie, so of course her point of view is treated most sympathetically. But after watching this, my love for Ian has been torn apart just a little.