February 22, 2008


I saw this film before Christmas last year but many of its images are still floating in my mind, which is why I wanted to share it. It tells the story of the Macclesfield band Joy Division from its humble living room beginnings to its abrupt end, in particular from the point of view of the band’s charismatic lead singer and songwriter Ian Curtis. This is celebrity photographer Anton Corbijn‘s first outing as a filmmaker, and rumour has it that he put up more than two million dollars of his own money to make it.

The film is shot entirely in high contrast black and white, which for me very clearly set the mood of Thatcher’s late 70’s Britain (although I know there was colour TV and film then!). In Corbijn’s hands, scenes that could have been grey and washed out take on a vivid feel, especially those showing the band’s and even more so Curtis’s electrifying performances.

Corbijn is a Dutch boy made good in the big world, and appears to enjoy working in monochrome, be it grey, blue or brown. He has photographed U2 many times over the years, his Joshua Tree album shot may be his most famous. Several years ago, Mr Snow, Bobby the Preacher and I set out on an epic one-day trip to the Groninger museum and back, to see the Anton Corbijn exhibition there. Many of the pictures can still be seen on his website. I liked the Mexican and Batman Bono ones a lot. Do you have a favourite?

Someone told me that they found the film hollow, without much of a storyline. I wonder how and why they could have experienced that, as I felt it to be very emotionally charged. The band’s rise to fame and the subsequent problems arising were depicted sympathetically, in particular Sam Riley’s powerful turn as Curtis, depressed by his epilepsy, his failing marriage, and the overwhelming intensity of his experience. Can you tell yet who I fell for in the film? Much as I thought Toby Kebbell played the band’s wisecracking manager brilliantly (and that his afro was supercool), it wasn’t him…

I think it was the film of the year for me last year, and I got to see so many. Go if you haven’t yet!


2 Responses to “control”

  1. stabbinslee Says:

    i love that film

  2. Interesting piece, check out my article on Joy Division’s Closer album –


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