[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope: Control

Portrait of a young artist dying young

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

March 5, 2008 -- There is something about dying young that draws filmmakers to the story like moths to a flame. Young suicides are even better. Filmmakers seem to have an almost self-destructive desire to portray suicide as an attractive alternative to living. The types of characters who commit suicide in films like “Control,” “The Virgin Suicides” and “The Dead Poets Society,” and too many other similar films are attractive, intelligent, sensitive, artistic and of high moral character. In short, they are perfect role models for young people who might be thinking about committing suicide themselves.

In these kinds of films, suicide is painless. It comes near the end of the film. Parents, wives, children and other relatives and friends are not shown as victims of a lifetime of pain and guilt as the result of the terrible selfishness of suicide. These things are seldom seen in movies. More often, suicide is shown as something almost noble. It is disgusting, this noble portrayal of suicide. It is no such thing.

Anyway, that is what the film “Control” is all about. It is all about burning bright, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse. It is hard to feel sorry for Ian Curtis (played by Sam Riley of “24 Hour Party People”), who kills himself because of the pain he suffers from being a successful rock and roll lead singer for the English band Joy Division. A lot of people, myself included, would love that kind of pain and suffering, or at least we'd be willing to endure it for the money and sex. Apparently, Curtis died before becoming rich, but he was on the verge of getting rich (Joy Division was getting ready to leave on an American tour), and he was already getting hot sex from the lovely journalist-groupie Annik Honoré (Alexandra Maria Lara), as well as from his young wife, Deborah (played by Samantha Morton of “In America”). When Deborah finds out about Ian's affair with Annik, she threatens him with divorce. He was still dithering about what to do about that, when he killed himself. Problem solved.

Ian Curtis also suffered from epilepsy and was on multiple anti-seizure medications when he died. He was also mixing these medications with alcohol, against his doctor's directions. This certainly was a contributing factor in his demise. I'm a little more familiar with this than most people, having been on anti-seizure medication myself for a couple of years early in this decade. It is worth noting that the new medications are better than the ones used back in the time of this movie (late 1970s to 1980) and they are better targeted. A diagnosis of epilepsy is not as serious a medical matter now as it was then. In the film, epilepsy is portrayed as a kind of death sentence, another excuse for suicide. If that portrayal was ever justified, it isn't anymore.

Sam Riley does a wonderful job of portraying Curtis, and Samantha Morton is equally good in her portrayal of Deborah Curtis. Some of Riley's musical performances are electrifying, giving us a glimpse of what Joy Division was (The band on the screen is also the band on the soundtrack. These guys, Riley, Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, and Harry Treadaway can play music as well as they act.). Riley is also convincing at depicting Curtis' dark moods and anguish. The black and white cinematography of the film is haunting and stark in its documentary-like realism. This would not be a bad film at all except for the infuriatingly romantic portrayal of suicide. The other problem is that Sam Riley's short life is not all that interesting. Maybe his music was interesting, but his life was not really all that remarkable. It might have been had he lived another 10 years or more. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2008 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)