I thought it nicely complemented Anton Corbijn's fictional treatment. The latter evoked the period very well, but as a movie inevitably it raised the story to the dimension of the mythic and universal. The documentary on the other hand is very much rooted in the specifics of time and place, with lots of grainy footage of Manchester and Joy Division gigs and a tour of the sites of lost landmarks in their story - the Electric Palace, Rafters, Pips and other nightclubs. There is mention of Manchester's notoriously right-wing police chief, James Anderton, and super 8 footage of the racks in a left-wing bookshop stocked with magazines like Peace News and World Revolution.
Nice to see the late Anthony Wilson in what must have been one of his last interviews, although part of me thinks that there is danger - typified by his comments - of inscribing Joy Division too tightly within a narrative about the transformation of Manchester. Joy Division's beauty was their defiance of the mundane. As was mentioned in the film their songs opened up windows into other worlds for those looking for them - whether it was referencing J.G. Ballard (Atrocity Exhibition), Kafka (Colony), or Williams Burroughs (Interzone). There's a funny story in the film about Ian Curtis's encounter with Burroughs at a gig in Belgium. Others who wrote about Joy Division, like Paul Morely and Jon Savage, were also inspired and inspiring - even if the latter's quote from Raoul Vaneigem in his 1979 Melody Maker review was later to take on a macabre resonance: 'To talk of life today is like talking of rope in the house of a hanged man'.
Several people in the film talk of Ian Curtis in terms of possession, as if he was channelling some kind of energy. Most memorably, Genesis P. Orridge, talks of him switched on by electricity like some 'tranced out symbol for a human being'. Curtis himself seems to have been interested in such notions, and the film features a recording of him undergoing some amateur 'past life regression' hypnotherapy with Bernard Sumner.
All this and an opening quote from Marshall Berman's All That is Solid Melts into Air: "To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world - and at the same time threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are" .