I've been a mild fan of Anton Corbijn ever since I bought the dvd box set that contained some of his work, which was mostly just a lot of his music videos. I say that I am a mild fan because I really like the images he creates. He has a unique visual style and that is clearly visible a lot of the time in most of his work and his photographs. Having said that, I often don't find his videos that entertaining and a lot of the time the images he presents are pretty to look at but lack much else. Ever since I watched those music videos and saw all the special features I started to wonder if he would ever jump on the bandwagon of music video directors becoming film directors. I also wondered what his film would turn out like and if it would face the same problem that I feel a lot of his videos have.
So, when I read that he was going to do a biopic on the lead singer of Joy Divison I was interested a lot. I'm not a huge Joy Division fan and I only know of a couple of songs by them, so my interest wasn't due to that. I just wanted to see what Corbijn could pull off with a full feature on his hands. When the trailers popped out I got the fear that the film would be pretty to look at but would have nothing behind it's style. I was still interested in watching it and now that I have I am glad that my fear was put to rest. Corbijn really knocks his first feature film out of the park.
Instead of presenting a by the numbers biopic (like Talk to Me) Corbijn presents a biopic that is really a pure biopic for the most part. By this I mean that if you walk into this one expecting a music biopic with a lot of scenes behind the formation and troubles of Joy Division you will be disappointed. Instead, the film plays out like a profound character driven piece. The catch is that the character just happens to be the lead singer of Joy Division. And yes, it's very pretty look at too. The crisp black and white cinematography is gorgeous.
Control deals with the man behind Joy Divison. Ian Curtis. We rarely get scenes that explain much about what went into Joy Divison or what made them stand out etc... Instead, we get the life behind the voice of Joy Division. We see how much of a complex character he really was and how much a problem he had with controlling (get it?) his life, his terrible illness, and his sudden fame. At times the motivations behind his actions are unclear, while other times he feels cold and distant to the point where we can't really understand him. I feel that this is done on purpose because a couple of scenes later we are treated to Ian even wondering why he acted in such way. A normal by the numbers biopic this ain't.
Through Sam Riley's brilliant performance as Ian Curtis we get hints and moments of him getting a clear view of what his life is like at the moment and the detached sadness when he realizes this through a subtle glance is what makes the film stand out so much. It makes Ian Curtis out to be a complex and ultimately tragic character who cant seem to even grasp on to himself most of the time. So much so that it leads to him to commit suicide. The moments leading up to this is what makes the whole film fit into place and work as a heartbreaking and complex character study of a man who just happened to be in a band that achieved fame.
This , at least to me, is one of the best debut films in recent memory. It's also another favorite of mine from this year.