Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Case for Control

It seems to be the Samantha Morton season on my movie viewing list at the moment. After seeing her as a psycho Scot in Elizabeth: the Golden Age, she popped up again as a not-quite-so-freaky housewife in the movie Control.

Control outlines the later life of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis, played by an astounding Sam Riley. The flier says that the film has been described as “extraordinary” (the Independent), “Outstanding” (the Guardian there) and “Electrifying” (by a gushing Empire magazine), and most of that praise has to be directly creditable to Riley’s portrayal of the talented but doomed Curtis.

However, the word that springs to my mind when I think of this film is “bleak”. Filmed in harsh black and white and set in soul-sapping brick suburbia, the depression and apparent lack of control that Curtis suffered from oozes from every frame. The film is set in Manchester too, so add extra layers of negativity to the image this description may have formed in your mind. I have always found Joy Division’s music fairly gloomy as well, so it acts as a perfect enhancement to the joyless visual style.

Storywise – well, the story is well told. It’s not a happy tale by any means, and it focuses on the leading man and his wife to the exclusion of everyone else (probably not surprising considering it was sourced from the wife’s memoirs). So, while the downward spiral of Curtis is shown in sympathetic detail, those around him seem to be either totally ignorant of his condition or unwilling or unable to even begin to assist. The end, when it eventually arrives, is kind of a relief in the way. The “agonising private conflicts” (as the flier describes them) are the kinds that shows like Oprah and Dr Phil address all the time – so, if the film was set in the 2000s rather than the 1970s, it may have turned out a wee bit differently.

In the end, the film itself was amazing. Not an easy watch, with long silences filled with depressive meaning that occasionally had me nodding off a bit; but overall, an incredible piece of work.

Verdict: Definitely not something to watch if you want “light and frothy”, an R14 out of an R16

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