The many faces of “Control” in black and white

“Control” in Black and White

Black-and-white films in 2007?! Not without good reason I say! “Control” directed by Anton Corbijn, which follows the short life of epileptic rockstar Ian Curtis, is too far in the 21st century to not use Technicolor in my opinion. So then the question that presents itself is simple…why? To distort the view of the common critic? To signify what little happiness Curtis had in his life because of his illness? To belie any implication of hope? Throughout the whole film there is never a blue sky, white clouds, or semblance of sunshine. Nothing to give me hope that things will turn around for him. I hear of it when it is spoken of, but I never see it for myself.

The implication of happiness, of lighter days, are being portrayed by the actors but I can only see the melding colors of black, white and gray. Taking each shadow, each gray sky, bright light into consideration I come to the conclusion of why black and white. The gray symbolizes his helplessness, stuck in the in between- as the color itself- of being the famous ‘normal’ rockstar but also the ‘disabled’ rockstar. Curtis is seen by doctors and requires counseling because of his extreme fits and is regarded as if he needs constant supervision. “Touching from a Distance” by Deborah Curtis, his widow, explains that she herself excused his ‘infidelity as being a part of his sickness’ disregarding that as an adult he was able to make his own decisions, and that it must be a deficiency in him caused by the epilepsy.

The reality of his situation however, is that just like any other rockstar, he got sucked in by the fame. The white embodies the blatancy of reality that yes, he does have a serious condition, and yes, he is still expected by everyone around him to keep going as if he did not. His fans never expected the concert to stop when he fell out on the stage, the band kept going. Nobody understood him or his illness and that allowed for a bitterness to begin to take its toll on him. In the film he commented that he hated his daughter, but he loved her just as much. In the memoir written by his wife she recalls when he told her that he ‘didn’t think he loved her anymore’. That’s where the black comes into play, revealing a darkness in him that caused him to push others away.

I don’t believe the film would have come across quite as believable if it had not been in black and white. The truth is seen in shades of gray. If the movie were in color it would express an underlying sense of hope and maybe, retribution. I would have believed in the end everything would have been alright because the setting has to match the tone for the full point to be made. No, as heartbreaking as it was that Ian Curtis did hang himself in the end, the film has the overwhelming feeling to it that no matter what, it’s not going to be okay. The bleakness of it foreshadowed his inevitable death. To say I wasn’t surprised is an understatement. In truth, I expected it to happen.

Cited Works Page

Control. Dir. Anton Corbijn. Prod. Anton Corbijn. 2007. The Weinstein Company, 2007. DVD.

Curtis, Deborah. Touching From A Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Great Britain: Faber and Faber,                                                                                   1995. Print.

2 thoughts on “The many faces of “Control” in black and white

  1. Skylar,

    As I watched the film, I too noticed and noted the absence of color. I hadn’t noticed the lack of sunshine, and that was a great point to bring up. I think it can be said that the sun shining can universally represent hope of a new day, a new situation or just hope in general. The absence of the sun is a great example of the hopelessness that was so present in Ian’s life. Another piece of evidence to Curtis’s hopelessness are the blatent lyrics in many of his songs. For example, “Existence, well what does it matter” is a line from the song called “Heart and Soul,” and just the title of the song “Isolation” reveals his utter loneliness. The movie artistically reveals Curtis’s hopelessness in hind sight, and the lyrics that he himself wrote were his own artistic cries for help. It’s just too bad they went unanswered.

  2. I too feel that the colors black and white made this movie more realistic. You talked about the color scheme of the movie with such detail. However, I think that the color of the movie has a story of its own to tell. The color white I think signifies the purity of Ian’s life, his being unaware of his condition and his actions. Whereas, when I see black I think of the drastic change in his personality, once he is diagnosed with his disorder. The gray I see as a medium between black and white, to express his mortality of the body and immortality of his spirit.

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