Control (2007 film)

Control (2007 film)

Film poster showing lead actor Sam Riley as Ian Curtis
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Produced by Anton Corbijn
Todd Eckert
Orian Williams
Iain Canning
Peter Heslop
Tony Wilson
Deborah Curtis
Written by Matt Greenhalgh
Deborah Curtis
Starring Sam Riley
Samantha Morton
Toby Kebbell
Alexandra Maria Lara
Music by New Order
Cinematography Martin Ruhe
Distributed by UKMomentum Pictures
USThe Weinstein Company
Release date(s) 5 October 2007 (2007-10-05)
Running time 122 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Box office $8,159,508[1]

Control is a 2007 black-and-white biographical film about Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Matt Greenhalgh wrote the screenplay based on the book Touching from a Distance, written by Curtis' widow Deborah who co-produced the film. Directed by Anton Corbijn, Control stars Sam Riley as Ian, Samantha Morton as Deborah, and Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honoré. It also stars James Anthony Pearson, Joe Anderson, and Harry Treadaway as Joy Division members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris, respectively, as well as Toby Kebbell as band manager Rob Gretton and Craig Parkinson as Factory Records head Tony Wilson.

The film follows Ian Curtis' life from 1973 to 1980, focusing on his marriage to Deborah, the formation and rise of Joy Division, his struggle with epilepsy, and his extramarital affair with Annik, culminating in his May 1980 suicide. The film's title comes from the Joy Division song "She's Lost Control".

Control premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2007 where it won several awards including the Director's Fortnight, the CICAE Art & Essai prize for best film, the Regards Jeunes Prize for best first/second directed feature film, and the Europa Cinemas Label prize for best European film in the sidebar.[2][3] It went on to win five British Independent Film Awards including Best Film, Best Director for Corbijn, Most Promising Newcomer for Riley, and Best Supporting Actor for Kebbell.[4] It was named Best Film at the 2007 Evening Standard British Film Awards, and Greenhalgh was given the Carl Foreman award for outstanding achievement in his first feature film at the 61st British Academy Film Awards.[5]



Ian Curtis (Sam Riley) and Debbie Woodruff (Samantha Morton) marry in 1975 in their home town of Macclesfield at ages 19 and 18, respectively. Ian retreats from domestic life, preferring to write poetry in solitude. In July 1976 they attend a Sex Pistols concert with Bernard Sumner (James Anthony Pearson), Peter Hook (Joe Anderson), and Terry Mason (Andrew Sheridan), who are starting a band. Mesmerized by the concert, Ian volunteers to be their singer. They initially call themselves Warsaw, and Terry moves into a managerial role with the addition of drummer Stephen Morris (Harry Treadaway). The band debuts 19 May 1977 following John Cooper Clarke (himself) and soon rename themselves Joy Division. Ian and Debbie finance their first EP, An Ideal for Living (1978).

During his job as an employment agent, Ian witnesses a seizure suffered by Corinne Lewis (Nicola Harrison). Unsatisfied with the brief mention Joy Division receives from television host Tony Wilson (Craig Parkinson), Ian demands that that he put the band on his program. In April 1978 Joy Division plays a battle of bands, impressing Tony and Rob Gretton (Toby Kebbell), who becomes their new manager. They perform "Transmission" on Tony's program and sign to his Factory Records label; Tony signs the contract using his own blood.

In December 1978 Ian suffers a seizure on the way back from the band's first London gig; He is diagnosed with epilepsy and prescribed medications that leave him drowsy and moody. Learning that that Corinne Lewis has died of a seizure, he pens "She's Lost Control" about her. He begins to neglect Debbie, who gives birth to their daughter Natalie in April 1979. Ian quits his job to go on tour, leaving Debbie to work and care for the baby.

Ian admits to Belgian fanzine journalist Annik Honoré (Alexandra Maria Lara) that he is miserable at home and considers his marriage a mistake. The two begin having an affair during Joy Division's January 1980 European tour. On returning home, Ian tells Debbie he is unsure if he still loves her. During the recording of "Love Will Tear Us Apart", Rob informs the band that they will be departing 19 May for a two-week tour of the United States. Debbie finds evidence of Ian's relationship with Annik and confronts him. He promises that his infidelity is over, but continues his affair during the recording of Closer in Islington.

Ian suffers a seizure mid-performance and is comforted by Annik, who says that she is falling in love with him. He attempts suicide by overdosing on phenobarbital, leaving Debbie a note asking her to "give my love to Annik." Doctors save Ian's life and he continues to perform, but is exhausted by the strain and overwhelmed by the audience's expectations, feeling that he has lost control of his life. At a performance at the Derby Hall the stress proves too much and he is unable to go onstage; Alan Hempstall (Joseph Marshall) of Crispy Ambulance steps in, but is heckled by the crowd until Ian takes the stage, only to walk off again after one verse. The audience riots when Alan retakes the microphone, ruining the gig. Ian tells Tony that he believes everyone hates him and that it is his own fault. When Debbie learns that Ian and Annik are still together, she demands a divorce. Bernard attempts to use hypnotherapy on Ian, who then goes to stay with his parents. He writes to Annik admitting his fear that his epilepsy will eventually kill him, and confesses that he loves her.

On 17 May 1980, two nights before Joy Division is due to depart for America, Ian returns home and begs Debbie not to divorce him. When she refuses, he angrily orders her out of the house. Alone, Ian drinks whiskey while listening to Iggy Pop's The Idiot and writing Debbie a letter. As he places it on the mantlepiece he has another seizure. Regaining consciousness the following morning, he hangs himself from the clothes line in the kitchen. Debbie discovers his body and staggers into the street, crying for help. The news of Ian's death leaves the remaining Joy Division members stunned, while Tony consoles Annik. Ian's body is cremated.


  • Sam Riley as Ian Curtis, the main figure in the film and the vocalist of Joy Division. Riley was relatively unknown before the film, and the director initially considered Cillian Murphy for the role, but later changed his mind because he viewed Murphy as "a little shorter than Ian".[6]
  • Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis, wife of Ian Curtis, whom she marries at a very young age but later in the film develops discord with her husband due to his affair with Annik. The film itself is based on Deborah's memoir on the experience with Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Though Morton dislikes biopics, she said Control was different in that she was personally a fan of Joy Division, and likes Deborah's book as well as Corbijn's photography.[7]
  • Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honoré, a journalist from Belgium and employee of the Belgian embassy. She has an affair with Ian Curtis after interviewing the band, exacerbating the tension between Ian and Deborah.
  • Joe Anderson as Peter Hook, the bass player of Joy Division.
  • Toby Kebbell as Rob Gretton, the manager of the band, succeeding Terry Mason. Kebbell provides humour and a lighter angle to the film.
  • Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson, the owner of the Factory Records company that distributes Joy Division's recordings.
  • James Anthony Pearson as Bernard Sumner, the band's guitarist and keyboardist.
  • Harry Treadaway as Stephen Morris, the drummer and percussionist of Joy Division.
  • Andrew Sheridan as Terry Mason, the manager of the band before the arrival of Rob Gretton. (However, he still stays tour manager)
  • Robert Shelly as Twinny, the roadie of the band.
  • Matthew McNulty as Nick Jackson
  • Ben Naylor as Martin Hannett, producer and co-founder of Factory Records with Tony Wilson.
  • John Cooper Clarke as himself, a British performance poet who composes punk style works. In the film he performed his poem "Evidently Chickentown" in a re-creation of a 1970s concert.
  • Lotti Closs as Gillian Gilbert, Stephen Morris' girlfriend.
  • Nicola Harrison as Corinne Lewis, a girl with epilepsy Ian Curtis met working in a job centre who inspired the song "She's Lost Control".
  • Herbert Grönemeyer portrays a Public GP in a cameo.


Corbijn had been a devout Joy Division fan since the band's early days in the late 1970s. After moving to England, he met the band and shot several pictures for NME, which boosted his career as a photographer. Some of his pictures taken are featured in the movie. He also directed the music video for the 1988 rerelease of "Atmosphere". He said that the film overlapped with his own life in some ways. "I had moved to England to be close to that music at the time, and I was very into Joy Division. I worked with them, took pictures of them that became synonymous with their music, and I was forever linked. Then eight years after [Ian Curtis'] death, I did the video for "Atmosphere." So in other people's eyes I was always connected with them."[8]

Control marks Corbijn's debut as a movie director, and he paid half of the €4.5 million budget out of his own pocket.[9] The film was shot on colour stock and printed to black and white to "reflect the atmosphere of Joy Division and the mood of the era".[10] Todd Eckert and Orian Williams are the producers. Deborah Curtis, Ian Curtis' widow, is a co-producer, along with music mogul Tony Wilson, who died months before the film's release. It had been Wilson who had given Joy Division their TV break on the local magazine programme Granada Reports, and he also founded Factory Records, which released most of Joy Division's work.[11]

After the script for the film was finished in May 2005, the film was shot at the former Carlton studios in Nottingham, and on location in Nottingham, Manchester and Macclesfield, England, as well as other European venues. Filming began on 3 July 2006 and lasted for seven weeks. Filming in and around Barton Street (where Curtis lived and died), Macclesfield took place on 11 and 12 July 2006. EM Media, the Regional Screen Agency for the East Midlands, invested £250,000 of European Regional Development Funds into the production of Control and supported the film throughout the shoot.[12] Samantha Morton (Deborah Curtis) and Toby Kebbell (Rob Gretton) both studied at the Junior TV Workshop in Nottingham. Kebbell starred opposite Paddy Considine (who played Gretton in 24 Hour Party People) in Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes.

Ian Curtis' daughter, Natalie, was in the crowd as an extra for the Derby Hall gig.[13]


The Weinstein Company secured the rights to release the film in North America after its success at Cannes.[14] The DVD was released in the U.K. on 11 February 2008, followed by the Australian DVD on 12 March 2008, and the North American DVD on 3 June 2008.

Box office

The film grossed box office of $8,159,508, with 71% of its revenue from countries outside of the U.K.[15] It ranks 32nd in terms of box office not adjusted for inflation among music biopics, below 24 Hour Party People and above What We Do Is Secret.[16]


Peter Bradshaw, the chief film reviewer for The Guardian, described Control as "the best film of the year: a tender, bleakly funny and superbly acted biopic of Curtis".[17] Prominent American film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a three and a half stars rating, out of four, and wrote that "The extraordinary achievement of Control is that it works simultaneously as a musical biopic and the story of a life."[18]

Film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes rated Control as "certified fresh" in its T-metric section, based on a wide array of critics, in which 93 of 107 critics reviewed the film positively.[19] Metacritic reports the film as having an average score of 78 out of 100, based on 27 reviews, claiming the film had "generally favourable reviews".[20]

However, some reviewers have disagreed and commented on the film negatively. Ray Bennett from Reuters remarked Control to be a "disappointment" and said the film "features lots of music from that time and has decent performances, but it fails to make the case for its fallen star".[21]

Reaction from band members

Peter Hook and Stephen Morris, two of the founding members of Joy Division, generally praised the film. However, Morris has disputed its accuracy, saying "None of it's true really" but acknowledged the need to bend facts because "the truth is too boring". Hook criticised the preview audience's reaction, saying how at the end of the film "it really hurt and everybody started clapping. It would've been nice to have a dignified silence".[22]

Hook also remarked that "Control is a hell of a lot more accurate than 24 Hour Party People. You can tell that Anton knew us, and he knew us well and he took the original script, which was very English and quite subtly he made it deeper and have a broader appeal so that it would not just make sense to an English audience but to an international audience."[23]

After viewing the film at Cannes, Hook said he "knew it was a great film and that it would be very well received because, even though it's two hours long, only two people went to the toilet the whole time. In fact, one of them was Bernard. The other one was a 70-year-old woman."[23]


Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released 30 October 2007 (2007-10-30) (U.S.)
Genre Rock
Label Warner Bros. Records/Rhino
Producer David Bowie, Martin Hannett, Peter Sinfield, Tom Wilson
Professional reviews

The reviews parameter has been deprecated. Please move reviews into the “Reception” section of the article. See Moving reviews into article space.

The Killers cover the 1979 Joy Division song "Shadowplay" on the soundtrack.[24] However, all live Joy Division performances in the film are performed by the actors. The actors contribute a cover of an original Joy Division song ("Transmission") to the soundtrack. Incidental tracks by 1970s artists like David Bowie and the Buzzcocks are the original recordings. New Order provided the original incidental music for the soundtrack. The Sex Pistols' track was omitted from the US version.[clarification needed]

Track listing

No. Title Performer Length
1. "Exit"   New Order 1:14
2. "What Goes On"   The Velvet Underground 5:07
3. "Shadowplay"   The Killers 4:11
4. "Boredom" (live) Buzzcocks 3:07
5. "Dead Souls"   Joy Division 4:51
6. "She Was Naked"   Supersister 3:53
7. "Sister Midnight"   Iggy Pop 4:18
8. "Love Will Tear Us Apart"   Joy Division 3:26
9. "Hypnosis"   New Order 1:35
10. "Drive in Saturday"   David Bowie 4:31
11. "Evidently Chickentown" (live) John Cooper Clarke 0:31
12. "2HB"   Roxy Music 4:29
13. "Transmission"   Control cast 3:02
14. "Autobahn"   Kraftwerk 11:23
15. "Atmosphere"   Joy Division 4:33
16. "Warszawa"   David Bowie 6:21
17. "Get Out"   New Order 2:42


  1. ^ "Control". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  2. ^ Robb, Stephen (17 May 2007). "Critics applaud Joy Division film". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  3. ^ "'Control' tops Directors' Fortnight nods". The Hollywood Reporter. 26 May 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-01. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  4. ^ "BIFA Winners 2007". British Independent Film Awards. 2007-11-28. Archived from the original on 2007-11-26. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  5. ^ "Bafta Film Awards 2008: The winners". BBC. 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  6. ^ Endelman, Michael (2006-02-24). "The Deal Report". Entertainment Weekly.,,1160326,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  7. ^ Mclean, Craig (2007-09-23). "Samantha Morton: Why does our boldest film actress feel so persecuted for her loyalty to British indie cinema?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2008-06-28 
  8. ^ Tewksbury, Drew (2007-10-08). "Losing 'Control'". Drew Tewksbury: Multimedia Journalist.. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  9. ^ Anton Corbijn and others (2006). Interview with Anton Corbijn about the film Control (Television). Dutch TV. 
  10. ^ "Control: The Ian Curtis film". Joy Division Central. 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  11. ^ "Obituaries -- Tony Wilson". The Independent (London). 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2008-08-10 
  12. ^ "EM Media-backed films sweep the board at the BIFAs" (PDF) (Press release). EM Media. 2007-11-29. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  13. ^ "Suddenly the reality hit me (Interview with Natalie Curtis)". The Guardian (London). 2007-09-22.,,2173446,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-26 
  14. ^ "Control Picked up for North American Distribution". Hollywood Reporter ( 2006-06-02. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  15. ^ "Control - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  16. ^ "Biopic - Music Movies at the Box Office - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  17. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2007-10-05). "Control". The Guardian (London).,,2183640,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-25 
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger (2007-10-26). "Control". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-06-25 
  19. ^ "Control - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  20. ^ "Control - Metacritic". Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  21. ^ Bennett, Ray (2007-05-29). "Joy Division movie "Control" a disappointment". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  22. ^ "Joy Division biopic 'not true' say band". NME News. 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2008-06-25. 
  23. ^ a b Morley, Paul (2008). Joy Division: Piece By Piece. London: Plexus Publishing Limited. 349-350.
  24. ^ "The Killers cover Shadowplay". NME. 2007-01-15. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 

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