(2007, Directed by Anton Corbijn, Written by Matt Greenhalgh, Based on the book Touching from a Distance by Deborah Curtis)
Ian Curtis may have been a very different singer and songwriter to Johnny Cash, but Control, like Walk The Line, is another superb biopic of a complex, charismatic and often contradictory figure. However, where Walk The Line was based on Cash’s own accounts of his life and career, Control was based on a vision of Curtis provided by someone else, namely his wife, Deborah. As its title, Touching From A Distance, suggests, Curtis, who dreamed of stardom even as he struggled with both epilepsy and the most grinding of day-jobs (as a benefits adviser in an unemployment office), was almost unknowable, even to those closest to him.
That sense of touching or viewing from a distance is evident in the film, for which Anton Corbijn was the perfect choice of director. Although Control was his first feature, he had spent a lifetime researching its story, having initially found fame as a photographer of Curtis’s band, Joy Division, for the British music press, and his black and white cinematography is, in effect, those early, monochrome photographs of the band being brought to life. And his Ian – Sam Riley – not only bore a considerable physical similarity to Curtis but brought out all his underlying angst and existential doubt.
Control is particularly good in showing how Curtis was both plagued by and inspired by his epilepsy. For all the other demons that tormented him (not least the fact that he fell in love with a woman other than his wife), this physical illness was a major contributor to his suffering and eventual suicide, as he suffered regular fits that at the time went largely undiagnosed and certainly untreated. However, as Control shows, epilepsy was also, at least in part, the source of his manic, maniacal energy on stage and in song, as epitomised by his greatest song, She’s Lost Control, in which he recounts the twisted, writhing agony of a fellow epileptic.