In the Anton Corbijn film, Control (2007), among Western nations England in the 1970s doesn’t seem to have much going for it. Young Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), however, has a lot going for him with respect to creating rock songs, and is the lead singer of the well-liked band Joy Division. But Curtis is a wayward romantic and a suffering sinner (and naif). He is afflicted with epilepsy and a lack of love for his wife Debbie (Samantha Morton) whom he treats inhumanely. He cheats on her with a woman called Annik. He is indifferent to the child he wanted his wife to bear. Curtis, a real-life person, commits suicide at age 23.

Control is about a man who finally cannot reconcile himself to social life, at all. Personal failure kills him. Made in black and white, the film is like a grim 400 Blows for young adults (and everyone else), without being the masterpiece that Truffaut’s movie is. Why we never hear what Curtis thinks about his music I don’t know, but Corbijn’s film is absorbing nonetheless. A first feature for the Danish director, it is refreshingly free of visual artiness—and of shallow acting. Important, that.