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Anton Corbijn Is Kind of Obsessed With Joy Division

Corbijn at the premiere, and, tragically, in color.Photo: Getty Images

Control is noted photographer and short filmmaker Anton Corbijn’s first full-length feature, and he wasn’t messing around. It’s a black-and-white movie about the extramarital affair, epilepsy, depression, and eventual suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, and it forced Corbijn, who produced as well as directed, to sell his home in England — where he moved to from Holland in 1979 just to be closer to the band. “It’s the one thing I really wanted to make,” he told us last night at the movie’s premiere, where he was accompanied by Helena Christensen. So what’s this we heard about the cast not being able to play their instruments?

How did you come on to the project?
Well, the short story is that I moved from Holland to England in ‘79 because of Joy Division. For many years I’ve been thinking of making a film, but because I’m not a filmmaker, I was sort of nervous about starting. I thought I could compensate for my lack of filmmaking skills with the emotional attachment I had to the band.

You had to rehearse the band a lot, right?
They couldn’t play instruments. They were determined.

What were the advantages of using black-and-white?
All the memories of Joy Division are in black-and-white, [because] all the posters were in black-and-white. They are remembered as very bleak and gray, and it’s all because of the posters.

Were there any objections to not shooting in color?
I financed the film, so no one could force any on me. Which is a good place to be in for your first film.

Have you recouped the money you spent in your role as producer?
Not yet. I’m selling my house in England at the moment. I’m going to Holland.

How did you make the transition from photography to film?
Over the last 35 years I’ve done short films, about 80 music videos. I do graphic design, I do stage design. I like architecture, I like filmmaking. I like to find something in each media that I can do something with. I’m very slow.

So what’s next for you?
I want to make a film probably in a year’s time — a very different kind of film. In color.

Are you going to work with lead actor Sam Riley again?
Whatever my next film is, he’s going to be in it. —Amy Odell

Anton Corbijn Is Kind of Obsessed With Joy Division