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22 October, 2007 / Erik

This is Why Events Unnerve Me

There comes a moment in Control, the new film about the life of Ian Curtis, where I wanted Ian to be done with it and hang himself. The movie, for the most part, is well made and as mysterious and distant as a Joy Division track. The early part of the film, which details the love affair between Ian and his wife to be, only gives you have seen glances and whispers as the two principle characters come together. There entire courtship is, ultimately, revealed to us during a pint before a Bowie concert. Most of the movie continues in this suggested tone. The rest of band is introduced in a similiar pint before a show scene. Their transition from Warsaw to Joy Division happens in the length of a conversation. Almost everything is suggested, from Tony Wilson’s interest in the band to Bernard Sumner’s real feelings on anything. The only things that are certain early on: Curtis has epilepsy and bass player Peter Hook is a jerk. However, this suggestive touch that is very consistent with the music Joy Division made vanishes when their manager, Rob Gretton announces a forthcoming US tour. Anyone familiar with the story knows it is only a matter of time before Curtis is hanging from a rope. For the film, however, this is the demarcation from suggesting thoughts and feelings to telling us explicitly. The movie slows down to painfully show us the final weeks of Ian Curtis’s life as his marriage breaks down and his ongoing affair with a woman from Belgium intensifies. We see shouting, Ian kicked out of his home, and even crashing with bandmate Sumner as a voiceover tells us Ian is becoming increasingly unsure of his place in the band. From Gretton’s announcement, the film descends into an odd melodrama where only Ian’s infidelity matters. The film is based on Deborah Curtis’s books Touching from a Distance, so I wonder how much blame she places into the affair and Annik HonorĂ©, the mistress, for Ian’s death. Like many other rock ‘n’ roll biopics, Control makes you understand why the troubled visionary had to leave while removing sympathy for him. All the reviews I’ve seen are calling Ian Curtis a troubled young man. In reality, he was just a conflicted person. He wanted to escape the Manchester are all his life, but when the opportunity was put before him he lost his footing. He feared the wife who loved the North. He feared a future with another woman in the unknowable places outside England. He feared the ever increasing severity of his fits. He was just all too human and Control ends almost suggesting these things, but places too much emphasis on one small human aspect. That final segment, paced as it is, makes you long for the earlier tone and a quicker run to the resolution of all things. Well, the resolution for Ian anyway. However, the change in tone does shatter the idol of Ian Curtis and reveal an ordinary human being rocked into inaction by a wealth of choices.


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