It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Ian Curtis, we are shown in a new film, was one of those introverted teenagers who gaze sadly upon their own destiny. In his cramped bedroom in Macclesfield, England, his schoolboy's desk holds files labeled for Poems, Novels, and so on. The files are filled not so much with his work as with his dreams. He lies on his back on his narrow bed, smokes, ponders, listens to music. He would become the object of cult veneration as lead singer of the late 1970s band Joy Division, and he would be a suicide at 23. There are times when we almost think that was his plan.
"Control," one of the most perceptive of rock music biopics, has been made by two people who knew him very well. It is based on a memoir by his wife Deborah (played by Samantha Morton), a teenager when they married, and directed by the photographer Anton Corbijn, whose early photos helped establish Curtis' image as young, handsome and sorrowful. The title of Deborah's book, Touching From a Distance, could describe all his relationships.
There is irony in the band name Joy Division, because Ian seems to experience little joy and much inner division, as an almost passive participant in his own career. Listen to the two albums the band made, and you hear his lead vocals as relentless complaints against --what? The melancholy that prevents him from feeling the emotions expressed by his words?
The movie is quietly, superbly photographed and acted. It is in black and white and gray, of course, and we sense Ian was a man who dreamed in shadows, not colors. He is played by Sam Riley, who makes him seem always alone. There is a lot of performance footage, but Riley sees Ian not so much performing as functioning. His bandmates sometimes look at him with that inward expression people get when they wonder if they have enough gas to get to the next gas station.