Joy Division
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Reg Traviss
with Ed Stoppard, Tom Schilling, Bernadette Heerwagen, Bernard Hill, Michelle Gayle, Lea Mornar, Bernard Kay, Suzanne von Borsody, Sean Chapman, Thomas Darchinger, Levente Törköly, Sybille Gebhardt
release UK 17.Nov.06
06/UK 1h45

Happier times: Schilling and Heerwagen

stoppard schilling hill
Joy Division An intriguing story is muddled and overcomplicated in this ambitious first feature by Reg Traviss. It looks great, but is so fragmented that it's impossible to engage with.

In early 1960s London, Thomas (Stoppard) is an undercover KGB spy, carrying out assignments for the enigmatic "Tally Ho" and reporting to his handler (Hill). And also falling in love with his landlord's daughter (Gayle). But his conflicting identities spark memories of a horrific childhood in wartime Berlin where, as a teenager (Schilling), his longstanding crush on his neighbour Melanie (Heerwagen) was interrupted by the violent culmination of the war, after which he was carted off by the Russians.

Traviss tells this story with a swirling mixture of flashbacks that's virtually impossible to follow (even piecing together that synopsis was a real effort). He never sticks in one place long enough for us to understand what's happening; these short scenes are intriguing but make no sense on their own. And it takes a lot of jumping around to fill in enough gaps for a full story to emerge (with a giant black hole where the Russian years would be).

Technically, the film's extremely accomplished. The photography is inventive, with a sense of urgency and drama that's quite involving. And the set design is remarkable for such a modest budget, especially in the wartime sequences (although 1962 London strangely looks more like 1969). The cast give strong performances, catching nuances in the scenes and interacting on screen with real passion and humour. Although the choppy structure diffuses the characters so badly that we can never identify with anyone.

The title refers to the Nazi youth activities organisation, although even this is underdeveloped, as it seems to have nothing to do with the story. It's like Traviss has developed a full-length TV series then brutally whittled it down under two hours. He can't seem to settle on a point of view, leaves some key scenes murky and under-explained, and even indulges in vicious Soviet bashing. The musical score continually urges us to feel something, but with all of these flashbacks within flashbacks, we're more likely to react with a "huh?"

cert 15 themes, violence, language 9.Oct.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Joy Division Alexandra, chicago: 1.5/5 "This movie sucked big time! Not only is the outline mixed up, but unfortunately, the actors are stale, and there is no one in this movie anyone can identify with! I was very dissapointed in both the movie and actors. I expected better of Tom Stoppard [sic], and I can barely understand what Tom Schilling is saying when trying to speak English. I think Schilling is a talented young actor but sometimes he can try too hard. Although some scenes are graphic they were made to look like they were made to make us feel sympathy for the characters. I found myself actually wanting them to get beat up and tortured for being so terrible in their acting. Thats so sad to say! I was screaming Run Forrest Run! Thats all they did! Boring! I give it a 1 for being a movie and 1/2 for the boring marathon I managed to watch. I want my money back." (9.Aug.07)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall