Music Break: the music of Joy Division performed by Sam Riley in CONTROL (2007)

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It’s been nearly a month since I saw this rock biopic, but I’m still haunted by Control. I mentioned in this post that no other film affected me quite like this one. It’s a beautiful film in so many ways, the cinematography, the acting, the dialog… but it’s also a sad, utterly heartbreaking film that will likely stay with you for days, or in my case, weeks.

What’s incredible about Anton Corbijn‘s debut [as well as Sam Riley‘s in his first ever feature film role], is that many people become fans of Joy Division, three decades after it was formed in 1976. Even people who attended Ian Curtis’ 30th anniversary tribute admitted they were introduced to him through this film.

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Joy Division’s style of music isn’t exactly my cup of tea but I can’t help but being quite mesmerized by it. I’ve been listening to their music, both the original and the ones performed by the actors in Control. Strangely enough, after watching clips of the real band on youtube, I actually prefer the live performances of the film version. Even my co-worker who’s a huge Joy Division fan said the same after I lent him my dvd just days after I saw it. I was surprised he hadn’t seen Control given how big a fan of Joy Division he is.

tumblr_o01tslI47v1r1yqj1o10_500So this post is my tribute to the band’s frontman Ian Curtis, as well as Sam Riley who practically became the character. Riley and the actors portraying the band did their own singing for the film, and they did a spectacular job. Sam was in a band in his early 20s called 10,000 Things (which you can listen to in youtube), so he’s got that natural rock star vibe. But the way he conveyed Curtis’ despair and sense of isolation is incredibly convincing, quite a feat for any actor, let alone a complete newbie in his first ever film role.

In fear every day, every evening,
He calls her aloud from above,
Carefully watched for a reason,
Painstaking devotion and love,
Surrendered to self preservation,
From others who care for themselves.
A blindness that touches perfection,
But hurts just like anything else.

Isolation, isolation, isolation.

Mother I tried please believe me,
I’m doing the best that I can.
I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through,
I’m ashamed of the person I am.

Isolation, isolation, isolation.

But if you could just see the beauty,
These things I could never describe,
These pleasures a wayward distraction,
This is my one lucky prize.

Isolation, isolation, isolation…

I still cry every time I think about the tragic ending of Curtis’ life when he hanged himself on the eve of the US tour. Curtis’ songwriting was filled with imagery of desolation, emptiness and alienation, if only people had realized he was writing about his own pain.

This scene is undoubtedly one of the most entrancing scenes of the entire film. Not only was the song itself had me in a trance but so was the performance. The epileptic dance, that strange look in his eyes as he performed the song… it’s as if he was possessed by Curtis’ soul as he sang this.

Here’s the first live performance by the band Warsaw, so it’s before they became Joy Division.



Joy Division’s music is truly a seminal one… and it shall always live on.


Hope you enjoyed today’s Music Break. Are you a fan of Joy Division or have seen Control? I’d love to hear what you think.