Last night Lauren and I watched Anton Corbijn’s “Control”, the bio-pic about the late frontman from Joy Division, Ian Curtis.

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You cannot explore the tangent to the late Glam Rock / punk / pre-goth fertile period of English music without coming across Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

With its rich synthesizers, Curtis’ unintelligible Doors-influenced baritone, and driving bass work, it marks a shift that would move to richer, more ambient, more experimental sounds in the New Wave.

The film is short beautifully, Corbijn’s eye for composition showing off his years of experience in still-shot photo journalism.

In “Control” we see the mundanity of northern England’s post-war culture. Jobs exchange, economic stagnation, row-houses and the stifling need of the war generation to re-impose the burgeois Englishness that made the world post disaster make sense again. In this the iconic pharos of Aladdin Sane-era Bowie and Lou Reed serve to give the idle, bored, expressive souls a way to dream of a diferent path for themselves.


Ian, as if acting out the rules from a Pulp song ( “…dance and drink and screw, ‘cause there’s nothing else to do” ), asks his sweetheart, Debbie, to marry him at the tender age of 19. Samantha Morton’s character agrees and Ian is tied to the wheel of expectation and convention – something that he assuredly was never really going to rest peacefully with. As Debbie tries to be a good wife ( cooking, making tea, cleaning, and naively assuring him of her unending love for him ), Joy Division, Ian’s band, inexplicably takes off and suddenly Ian is introduced to a much larger world ( encompassing, at the very least, London and the Western European continent ) and the exotic Annik Honore.

As the upswing to superstardom begins to approach the exponential, Ian’s shyness takes hold. He didn’t mean for superstardom to be so demanding, to be so large, for there to be so many people. At the same time he begins to experience grand mal seizures which agonize, embarrass, and humiliate him. To combat these he takes an array of pills potent enough to tranquilize elephants which fail to check the seizures, which put him further out of sync with the rest of society, and which increase his sense of isolation.

It was at this point in the movie that I noticed an odd similarity between Curtis and Kurt Cobain who, at the height of the rocket ride, began to experience intense stomach pain and frustration with having become quite so famous.

The two both follow the same path from there on out.

In some ways I wonder if there aren’t people in this world whose cling to the mortal coil isn’t just a bit too light. Their souls are too light for their bodies, too scared by noise and the weight of social expectation. When prompted with the choice of becoming heavier, of binding into the body, they choose to fight its demand for their souls to settle firmly there.