Alexandra Maria Lara
Probably the thing I like most about CLOSER is that it doesn’t take the easy way out and paint Curtis as some depressed emo kid looking for attention, instead portraying him as a very real and relatable guy torn apart by fame, love and himself. Based on a biography written by his wife, we see Curtis as a man heavily medicated and suffering from epilepsy, who felt enormous pressure artistically with his band on the verge of international popularity, and personally, having fallen in love with another woman but still emotionally loyal to his young family. Trying to make everyone happy, including himself, obviously came with a price. Given the complexities involved, the film has a lot of ground to cover and does so gracefully, avoiding the typical music biopic drama for a very natural but intricate story. While I would’ve liked to have seen more about the music itself and the creation of the band’s unique sound, in the end this is a movie about Curtis, not Joy Division.
CLOSER is funny at spots, heartbreaking at others and grossly interesting overall thanks to the performances. Sam Riley is a complete find as Curtis, and not just because he eerily resembles the late singer. Like the rest of the band, Riley does his own singing and pulls off an impressive channeling of the post-punk pioneer, from his smoldering personality to his disjointed stage presence. His performance doesn’t glorify Curtis as a rock god, but it also doesn’t excuse his behavior throughout the film. (It would’ve been supremely easy for Curtis to come off as a giant d-bag, which Riley avoids.) Also great is Samantha Morton as Curtis’ high school sweetheart wife. Morton’s thespian skills should come as no surprise, but her emotional showdowns with Riley still make for some gripping scenes and one tragic love story.
Director Anton Corbijn knew Joy Division as a young photographer in London’s underground music scene. That personal connection, coupled with his visual eye (and great use of black and white cinematography), make for a powerful combination. And unsurprisingly, the match of the moody music and the content just fits. By the time the end credits roll, I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel completely absorbed in the story.
Commentary by Anton Corbijn: Corbijn is quiet talker but given his long career as a photographer and artist, not to mention his personal connection to Curtis and Joy Division, it makes for some interesting stories and insights.
The Making of CONTROL (23:17): Some interviews with the director, writer and cast, who speak about having to learn and perform Joy Division’s most popular songs. Everyone has something to share, which makes this worth a watch.
In Control: A Conversation with Anton Corbijn (12:53): More personal stories from Corbijn, as well as his outlook on the film.
Extended Live Performances (9:11): The full version of three of the songs from the film.
Music Videos: If you want to see how much the cast nailed the performances, watch Joy Division’s “Transmission” here and compare it to the one in movie. There’s also two other videos: another from Joy Division directed by Corbijn and one from The “Why are we popular again?” Killers.
Promotional Materials including Trailers, Photo Gallery and an ad for the fantastic soundtrack. (Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, Buzcocks and of course New Order and Joy Division—highly recommended.)
Extra Tidbit: Director Anton Corbijn has directed music videos for U2, Metallica and Depeche Mode.