Imagine trying to convince your other half to go and see a film about a late 70s post-punk band from Macclesfield whose lead singer killed himself. Oh, and it's in black and white. I didn't even make the effort, so I waited for the DVD and bought that instead.
I grew up with New Order but Joy Division had always been that other band that transformed into New Order. It's only over the last few years that I've grown to appreciate their music more.
So, onto the film. We all know how it ends (and if you don't, you really should read more, like the start of this blog entry) so there's no surprise there. But given the myth that's grown up around Joy Division and more specifically Ian Curtis, it's perhaps surprising that he's portrayed as a mostly normal bloke, who just had serious problems coping with his increasing fame, epilepsy, fatherhood and his own infidelity. Fact is I think anybody would have trouble coping with all of that. He's also shown as not treating his wife particularly well either so rather than a troubled genius, he comes across as a pretty normal flawed human.
It pays to watch it at least a couple of times. When I watched it the first time I was constantly waiting for him to have a fit or to attempt suicide, rather than actually watch the film. And the film is worth watching since it's beautifully filmed (as you'd expect from Anton Corbijn) and pretty entertaining to boot.
I think the reason we are so drawn to musicians who die young is the thought of what they might have achieved had they lived and for Ian Curtis it's particularly true. For me their three greatest songs are 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', 'Atmosphere' and 'Ceremony', all written pretty close to his death and all sounding pretty damn good even now. So just as they were approaching greatness, he died. But saying that, the fact he died when he did may just add to the beauty in those songs...
Then again, if he had continued on, we almost certainly know how the story would have ended. Joy Division may have produced some more great songs and albums and become as big as U2 (as Peter Hook thinks), but at some point they'd have got old and crap, just like New Order did. So though his death must have been painful for his family and friends, perhaps it was best for us music fans.