It was on a grey day like today but 34 years ago on May 18, 1980, that the music world woke up to the worst news imaginable at the time. Alone at his home in Manchester, Ian Curtis confronted his distressing situation. In those days his wife Deborah insisted on divorcing him, and his epilepsy condition was worsening, but not everything was negative in his life those last days. His band, Joy Division was about to embark on their first tour of the United States, and Curtis seemed eager to start this adventure. That night, Ian saw Stroszek, the tragicomedy of his favorite director, Werner Herzog, additionally heard The Idiot, an introspective album of his beloved Iggy Pop, and then at some point in the night he hanged himself in the kitchen, he was 24 years old. Curtis left a wife, a daughter, a lover and a band in this world, but also a musical legacy that was instilled as a benchmark of the late 1970s British post-punk. His legacy, compact and powerful, is still influencing the sound of countless bands around the world. And no doubt will continue to do so in the immediate future.
Most of today’s indie rock bands are influenced by Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, The Smiths and Depeche Mode. But in turn, Joy Division has influenced bands from a whole different spectrum of genres, thanks to their cryptically dark lyrics and sounds, during a time where mainstream music was upbeat in the likes of disco and pop. Aside from the abrupt end to Joy Division, the music world lost a personality it was just getting to know, and one that will now puzzle and intrigue listeners for years to come given the mystique surrounding Curtis’ influential voice and gothic lyrics.
In his early years, Curtis was obsessed with dying young, and being remembered like his heroes before him, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. However, in his last days, he created a musical legacy, writing songs of powerful emotion and personal battles. This became the birth of the post-punk era.
In recent years the life of Ian Curtis made it into independent film viewed around the world in Control, a movie by Anton Corbijn that won an award in Cannes. But control is the one thing Curtis didn't have. He couldn't control his physical health, and he couldn't control his personal life. In his last days, he was having an affair, his marriage was broken and he was facing separation from his year-old baby daughter. "All the failures of the modern man", he sang in the song Failures. Curtis was known to be a gifted poet and he gave his lyrics a beautiful and power resonance with sheer captivation that will always go hand in hand with his stage theatrics, presence and dancing. He expressed his emotions on stage with stirring fervor, twisting and turning his body as if he was possessed by a demon that squeezed every drop of his talent, distinguishing him from any other than other band front men of the time.
Ian Curtis’s suicide left a legacy behind him. Joy Division’s gorgeous music being expressed in its rawest form would make them become one of the most influential bands ever. After Ian’s death, Joy Division reformed and became the hugely successful band, New Order that achieved critical acclaim throughout the 80´s and beyond.
The life of Ian Curtis and the story of Joy Division are venerated in this riveting documentary, and recounts the short span of the band after his death and how it transformed into New Order.