Control (2007) - Synopsis

1970’s Macclesfield, North-East England. Like most teenagers, Ian Curtis looks to find distraction from small-town urban life. For cheap thrills, with a friend, he helps look after old-aged pensioners and at the same time takes samples of all their prescription drugs. Broke, he fuels his main passion in life, music. When not daydreaming at school, he wiles away the hours laying on his bed, chain-smoking, while listening to the likes of: MC5, The Doors, Velvet Underground, Roxy Music and David Bowie. Despite not playing an instrument, he has an inner determination to make music his life.

Ian takes local girl Deborah Woodruff on a date to see David Bowie at a ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ concert. A romance blossoms. Three-years later, Ian, aged 19, marries Debbie. They set up home, and despite working at the local Unemployment Office, Ian’s music aspirations still burn.

At a Sex Pistols concert, Ian meets Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook. It’s a meeting that sows the seed to the forming of a band called Warsaw. Ian becomes the band’s singer and song writer.

After playing a series of gigs, mainly in Manchester, Warsaw change their name to Joy Division; due to a name clash with another band. The group gains extra momentum when the straight-talking Rob Gretton becomes their manager. Ian typifies the band’s new sense of purpose, when he gets Joy Division a slot on the influential ‘Granada Reports’ TV show, after confronting (and verbally insulting) the show’s host Tony Wilson. An intrigued Wilson soon becomes a fan of Joy Division, and signs them up to his record label – loosing several pints of blood in the process.

In the meantime, with the harsh reality of making ends meet, Ian continues to work at the Unemployment Benefit Office. While at work, Ian witnesses a girl have an epileptic fit. As well as inspiring the song ‘She’s Lost Control’, it’s a sign of things to come for him.

On the way back from a concert in London, Curtis himself suffers a grand mal attack. With a doctor diagnosing him with epilepsy, the condition becomes an uncertain and underling burden to his increasing responsibilities. Ian becomes a father, as Debbie gives birth to a daughter, Natalie, this is during the period Joy Division are recording their first album.

Despite his new family life, Ian becomes besotted with a young Belgium girl called Annik Honoré, who he meets when she interviews the band. The two hit it off and embark on an intense love affair. Debbie is left oblivious to its development. At first, she thinks Ian’s mood and schizophrenic personality swings are down to his epilepsy and increasing devotion to Joy Division.

Ian’s indifference to his wife intensifies; after being picked up to embark on the band’s European tour, he drives past her on the street, completely ignoring her presence. Annik accompanies Ian on the European tour.

Finally, Deborah’s suspicion of Ian’s affair increases, especially after he tells her, he wouldn’t mind if she wanted to sleep with other men. She searches his belongings at their house, and finds Annik’s contact details. After she confronts Ian, he declares he will end his relationship with Annik. It’s a promise he can’t keep.

Ian’s guilt and shame, coupled with the growing strain of his epilepsy, engulf him to such a level; he struggles to contain his increasingly depressive state. In a suicide attempt, he takes a drug overdose, leaving a note to Debbie, that reads: “No need to fight now, give my love to Annik, Ian”

Ian survives. Afterwards, he gives the outward impression that he is pulling himself together - by going ahead with a divorce to Debbie, and preparing for the band’s tour of the USA. He leaves his matrimonial home and for the time being is clear of epileptic fits. He first stays at Rob Gretton’s place, then band mate Bernard Sumner’s (who tries to help him through hypnosis), before retreating to his parent’s. As the band’s excitement of their fast-approaching US tour increases, internally, Ian carries reservations about going.

Returning to his and Debbie’s home, alone, he begins to drink whiskey while watching TV. Debbie comes back, and amidst an argument, Ian pleads to her to drop the divorce. She leaves.

Soon after, Ian suffers a violent fit. He wakes up on the living room floor in tears and despondent. The next morning, Debbie returns to find her husband has hung himself in the kitchen. Ian had committed suicide, aged 23. Drastically, finding the peace that had escaped him in life.