Trainspotting (1996) — 20 Years After Choosing Life.

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“Trainspotting” – The knockabout 1996 heroin-addict ensemble piece which put Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor on the map, immortalized Irvine Welsh’s bestselling novel and proved a shot in the arm for 1990’s British Cinema and it’s greatest creation.

One of Britain’s Greatest Ever Films…

Trainspotting” is the 1996 British black comedy-drama film which starred Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, and Kelly Macdonald. The film which underwent the direction of Danny Boyle, the narration of Ewan McGregor and a screenplay by John Hodge based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh — resulting in an unexpected pop culture phenomenon, defining not only the 90’s generation but setting the future tone for British Film Institute as well. It’s a film that made British cinema seem exciting again and restored its golden period rather than a fusty factory of period dramas which was ongoing for half a decade. And it became a classic that is still being talked about today, with a sequel finally on the way in less than a month. It is often described as black comedy, but I would liken it more to a drama with a crude, dark sense of humor. Trainspotting is the rare drug addiction-tale to tackle serious material without taking itself too seriously.

 

Although set in Edinburgh, almost all of the film was shot in Glasgow, apart from the opening scenes, which were shot in Edinburgh, and the final scenes which were shot in London. The film showcases the misadventures of mainly five young men in Edinburgh trying to find their way out of joblessness, aimlessness to aimless relationships and relentless drug addiction. Some are successful, while others hopelessly are not. The title, “Trainspotting” is a metaphor. The “Trans-Potters” are people playing a kind of game is to watch the trains go all day and record their numbers. This game is synonymous with boredom and from all forms of addictive or compulsive activity, so you can make a comparison with the drug. But the metaphor can also represent, as Renton sees trains to take, opportunities to stop the drugs and leave his friends, but he does nothing, except at the end where he took his chance and chose the train (of life). The film’s storyline eventually divulges into an epic tale of struggle with both addiction and poverty through the lives of these young drug users or heroin addicts, trying to make their own journeys.

trainspotting“Choose Life” (Extract from “Trainspotting” by Irvine Welsh)

Renton, a pro heroin-addict, played by McGregor is the main protagonist. He is also the narrator as the film centres around his life and the scuffles he undergoes with addiction. Although he eventually wants to change his life and quit heroin. But his willpower gets caught in between his junk habit and his neverending lust for one final shot before he’d quit or can finally quit. He believes: when you’re on junk you have only one worry: scoring. Human relationships and all the other things really don’t matter when you’ve got a sincere and truthful junk habit.

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f*cking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of f*cking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f*ck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f*cking junk food into your mouth. Choose to rot away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f*cked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons…. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?” —Mark “Rent-Boy” Renton.

All the characters in this film, apart from Renton are also well defined and have very specific characteristics. However, they share the same idea: to escape society’s rules by taking drugs, each in his own way. They refuse to integrate the universal mode and the consumer society, much more despaired than they are. This aversion is clearly shown by the image of the parents of Renton, leading a sordid life and bouffant of entertainment in their pathetic homes. Mark, Spud and Sick Boy choose drugs to touch the bottom, that is to say, the sense of life.

McGregor is more than ably abetted by a superb supporting cast, including Jonny Lee Miller as suave, Byronesque sociopath Sick Boy, Robert Carlyle as snarling, repressed, hard-drinking psychopath Begbie, and Ewen Bremner as the endearingly inept Spud. Their behaviour towards one another is often deplorable, but the film is propelled by an underlying sense of camaraderie. As critic Roger Ebert so astutely observed at the time: “The reason there is a fierce joy in Trainspotting, despite the appalling things that happen in it, is that it’s basically about friends in need.”

The actual theme of the film was rather simple. Friends are your companions through bad times and good times as they say but with Renton’s situation, these friends are actually an option. Would you take them or not? Being comfortable and at ease with your friends is good as long as we know our limitations because friends can’t always prank you on what’s on their minds.


Cinematography: Brian Tufano || Editing by: Masahiro Hirakubo.

Principal Photography made a huge part and the camera did it’s tricks on film. The most familiar scene is the toilet scene where Renton actually dove into the toilet bowl and the latter swallowed him as well just to get the capsule which he accidentally drops in the toilet bowl. Behind this nasty scene, the director said that the crew built a platform above a trap door and lowered the actor down. Optical illusions are also used in other scenes. Different angles of the camera are also present.

The split-second opening frame of Trainspotting is instantly recognisable; the sign of a truly great scene. The image of the lead characters sprinting from officers on the streets of Edinburgh with Renton narrating his life philosophy, all soundtracked by Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ is genuinely spine-tingling. However, Boyle and Andrew Macdonald were unsure where to place the scene simply known as “Choose Life”. The final decision proved to be genius…

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The first minutes of the film leaves a mark on it’s genre. With Renton (McGregor) and Spud (Bremner) running down the street pursued by police or store guards. This shows the behind of the main character running; the emphasis is on his feet and the environment he is running in. The pace he is running at and the movement of his feet are in beat with the music (Iggy Pop). It is effective as the audience is drawn further into the film from the offset. Although it is evident that the road he is running down is rather busy because of the people alongside, there appears to be a clear space for him to run. In that case, it allows the audience to be more focused on the character. The fact that the opening scene is just a close up of feet – It leaves the audience curious to know who it is running, it creates interest and curiosity. One shows Renton and Spud running towards the camera. It is a mid-shot them running, with a group of people running towards them. The fact they are running displays that they have done something wrong or reason to be running. Renton’s shirt appears to be undone or torn – implies that perhaps he does not have much money to have smarter clothes. The direct eye contact with the camera is rather intimidating and can be unnerving. It is effective to get the audience compassion.

Trainspotting (1996) - Opening Sequence

A POV shot from Renton’s view is very useful as to display the protagonist’s point of view to create further a feeling of empathy. From the POV shot, it switches to mid-shot when he runs and gets hit by the car. This is a great use of match on action.

Wide shot of the group running away under bridge getting smaller – contrasting from their figure at the start means they are not as powerful as they first seem to be. Also, the bridge could be taken as “seeing light at the end of the tunnel” as Renton tries to escape a life of heroin.

Action shots (consists of long angle shot, long shot, mid shot) of the group during football game – showing their character, you have the weedy one, the loud one, the fierce one, the joker, the realist etc. The framing for each shot represents the characters personality or possible characteristics.

The camera is with the person or subject. By then you begin to be part of the film. Mid close-up silhouette of man’s side profile – leaves suspense, and makes the silhouette changeable.

The 180-degree rule as the camera pans over his body. Out of focus on his body focusing on the images in the background is drawing attention to the squalor in which he lives. Wanting the audience to realise what’s he’s up to.

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The camera pans across the baby in one doorway then tracks into the heroin session in the next room. This a very meaningful shot, showing the fine divide between reality and another world. It also contrasts the story of life, showing a fragile innocence in one doorway and a life of drugs in another. From this it connotes two possible pathways; chooses to change. Bird’s eye view shot of Spud supports the statement that there are two lifestyles in one household. This shot is within the heroin doorway, with only a brick wall dividing from the naive innocence of the baby. Spud is establishing the typical household routine and is framed by the rule of thirds.

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The film’s camera positioning, editing, and lighting contribute to the overall dark, fast paced theme and message of the movie. These elements give a realistic and intense view of drug abuse and social reality and problem. The use of camera positioning gives an immediate energy to the movie. Most shots in this movie are close up shots used to “direct attention to important features of a scene’s action or meaning.” For instance: the worst toilet in Scotland, which signifies as a metaphor of the place in Renton’s view. From these clips, the audience can easily get the message the film wants to convey. Unlike the relentless gloom of Edinburgh, London is shown in bright daylight; Big Ben and Nelson’s Column are unusual angles.


“The Worst Toilet in Scotland”


The Cast of “Trainspotting”

Trainspotting” was filmed entirely in just 35 days, 5 weeks to be more specific. It owed a very limited budget of £1.5 million, meaning that most scenes had to be shot in just one take. But the result was an eclectic combination of hilarity, razor-sharp irony and the harrowing effects of drugs on a life. It is, in a word, brilliant.

 

The strategy in terms of the ad campaign was to introduce the characters, so the first stage was escalator panels, which focused on each individuals, followed by a bus shelter campaign all before the final big sheet ads to feature the whole group.

 

Ironically, due to its subject, Trainspotting was screened but was shown out of competition at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival –it went on to become the festival’s one unqualified critical and popular hit.

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Ewan McGregor considered using heroin for real to prepare for the lead role as Mark Renton. McGregor is one of those method actor folks and so seriously considered shooting up for real in order to get into the mind of ‘Rent Boy’. Fortunately, he decided against such a move, instead relying on his acting chops alone. Fair to say that it was a good call. McGregor was fantastic as the main man and it wouldn’t take long before he became a global superstar.

Incidentally, it was Ewan himself who decided to sport the now iconic shaved head look for the movie, popping out to chop his then long locks during a break in rehearsals.

Overall, Ewan McGregor was a perfect lead. In a sort of counterintuitive way, McGregor’s protagonist is a memorable Homer for modern Scottish society.


Ewen Bremner
(‘Spud’) had previous with Trainspotting. Good previous, that is. Bremner was and is a highly respected character actor who started off in the theatre. In fact, he starred as Renton in the stage production of Trainspotting. The play was highly successful and Bremner was a revelation in the lead role. However, when it came to the pre-production stage of the movie, the decision-makers wanted a more bankable actor. McGregor had impressed in 1994’s critically-acclaimed Shallow Grave (also directed by Boyle) and was seen as a more attractive lead man. Poor aul’ Bremner was consoled with the superb support role as the hapless and harmless ‘Spud’. That flowing hair was just too enticing for the Trainspotting big cheeses.

 

Jonny Lee Miller was the odd one out. The man who played ‘Sick Boy’ was the only boy involved who wasn’t a Scot. Miller was born-and-bred in London and was hired on the recommendation of friend McGregor. His Scottish accent was so convincing that many of the cast assumed they were in the company of a legitimate local. That was until he reverted to his true brogue on the final day of filming. Impressive. Miller had already made a bit of a splash in Hollywood at this stage, starring in the now cult-classic Hackers with his wife at the time, Angelina Jolie.

Kelly Macdonald’s securing of the lead female role was the stuff of fairy tales. Like Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald can also credit Trainspotting as her inaugural motion picture, however, she secured the role through more unconventional methods. The film’s production crew spent time in Glasgow handing out flyers inviting females to openly audition for the character of Diane. Macdonald showed up in a packed corridor of acting hopefuls, sporting a plain haircut and ordinary look and immediately outshone the countless glamour models surrounding her, according to Danny Boyle. The casting was inspirational as the chemistry between McGregor and Macdonald was palpable. Thankfully, unlike the character of Diane, Macdonald was of legal age during filming, turning 20, in fact, on the day of the film’s release. If only Renton had such luck when the two hooked up…

Robert Carlyle played the sociopath Begbie as a closet homosexual. Yes, you read right. In 2009, Carlyle revealed to BAFTA that he interpreted Begbie’s terrifying and regular violent turns as a defence mechanism against the “fear of being outed”. Welsh agreed with this portrayal and admitted to writing the character as sexually ambiguous in the book. Where the novel and movie differ is that in the former, Begbie is described as tall and physically intimidating. After Christopher Eccleston turned down the role, Carlyle stepped in and convinced Danny Boyle that he, channelling the most intense case of small man syndrome ever, would be even more psychotic. His self-confidence in doing the role justice was warranted, you wouldn’t mess with Begbie…ever. He’s scarier than Joe Pesci in Goodfellas for this writer’s money.

 

The leads were excellent, however… a few minor characters are underused. But not intentionally. For instance, Kevin McKidd missed out on a lot of post-production publicity. McKidd’s role as Tommy was arguably the film’s most pertinent, showing the true destruction and tragedy that drug addiction can bring to even the most wholesome of characters. However, Tommy’s importance to the movie was slightly undermined on the promotional tour. Appearing in his first feature film, McKidd rather naively booked a holiday immediately after filming was wrapped and so was not involved in any of the image or video marketing of the movie. A quick Google of the official Trainspotting posters will confirm this fact. Still, though, a hell of a debut feature to have on your CV. And McKidd hasn’t exactly done badly since, as fans of Grey’s Anatomy will testify.

 

Kelly Macdonald, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewan McGregor Ewen Bremner and in
Kelly Macdonald, Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner – Neon Magazine Scans ’97-’99.

Irvine Welsh had to be convinced to turn his novel into a movie, before helping himself to a cameo. The brains behind Trainspotting had previously been approached by film-makers but turned down every offer fearing that his book would be misrepresented on screen. It was only when writers Andrew Macdonald and John Hodge met with Welsh that the author relented. He was won over by the duo’s passion for the book and their knowledge of the subject matter – Hodge was previously a doctor who often dealt with heroin addicts. Welsh didn’t stop there. He even helped himself to a wee cameo as Renton’s hopeless drug dealer.


 

Exploring the Shackling and Inescapable World of “Heroin”

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Danny Boyle’s film left me confused as to whether it was really a film about drug addiction or the tendency of people to find ways to constantly self-destruct. While the film itself revolved around the theme of drug addiction, I felt that it was never the central theme from which the characters progressed in the narrative. The scenes were highly stylised, shot like a music video in the 90’s when MTV was at the height of its popularity. The setting (run down apartment in Glasgow and eventually Renton’s apartment in London), soundtrack (tracks from Blur, Iggy Pop, and New Order), and cinematography (the use of surrealism as a metaphor for the mind of a drug addict) all contributed to the authenticity of the film as well as staying faithful to its theme – the callous capacity of people to self-destruct. Every screen element reverberated certain disorder and chaos in the lives of the characters – from Renton to Diane. Boyle’s use of media res or beginning the film in the middle only highlights the disjointed and disorganised nature of the characters. There was no beginning, middle, and end for them – just the present, to live selfishly for the present at all cost.

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Trainspotting Script; Screenplay John Hodge; Danny Boyle’s generation-defining adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s cult novel of the same title May 2nd, 1995. (Image)

Compared to other films pertaining to drug addiction as a theme or plot device, Trainspotting allows one to look into the mind of an addict through the use of surrealism. Renton going in and out of a toilet bowl or the baby crawling on the ceiling were scenes that effectively portrayed the fragmented and paranoid mind of an addict. Boyle wanted the viewers to be intimately involved with his drug-addicted characters by showing what was going on in their minds. Eventually, I came to the realisation that themes of drugs, violence, and greed were secondary to what Danny Boyle wanted to point out…that it is human nature to self-destruct, we just choose our own form of addiction to help us.

The film morally dissects the uncomfortable and messy issue of drug abuse in a way that is heartfelt and serious, but also funny and eccentric, while the variety of interesting characters help flesh out this social commentary.


 

Visceral Slices of Life from the Streets of Edinburgh — Retched from the Gullet

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Stylistically, “Trainspotting” is unlike anything Danny Boyle has presented us with, however, he has built up that reputation as a director that tends not to do anything twice. With jump cuts, extreme angles, big close-ups and everything in between on display, the story of Trainspotting is brought to life on a completely different level through superbly bold cinematographic and editing techniques. Although it would be recommended to rematch the film on mute to appreciate the visual elements in all their glory, the dialogue of the screenplay is equally as engrossing. The thick, rich, bellowing Scottish accents are fantastic to listen to from a foreigner, especially from the fascinatingly intense Begbie and a hardened adrenaline-fuelled brawler who acts as Renton’s voice of reason.

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The script is intelligently written from beginning to end and offers a well-rounded look at life, existence, Renton’s life, Renton’s existence and how society operates around him. The writing has a way of repeating itself, which adds a lot to the structure of the film when dealing with relapse, habit, and addiction. On the other hand, it also adds the aspect of change into the mix as Renton’s vow to break away from the drug scene is explored thoroughly throughout the piece.

The film tracks Tommy, Spud, and Sick Boy and links the characters through interweaving storylines. In allowing different versions the same story to be told the film shifts narrators: for example, in the telling of the different versions of the fight at the pool hall the film shifts between Renton’s narration of life among the group, Begbie’s self-serving recollection, and Tommy’s own memory. Diane also takes on a narrative role as a letter writer. The night-club sequence in Edinburgh crosscuts between Tommy and Spud’s, and Lizzie and Gail’s differing versions of the same conversations, and at the end of the night the Soyuz Het splits to follow three couples (Renton and Diane, Tommy and Lizzie, Spud and Gail) as they embark on their ill-fated sexual adventures. Unlike the other films discussed here, the group is shown as highly fragmented, leaving the unifying space of the nightclub as they go their separate ways, and this highlights Renton’s alienation from his own surroundings. In the nightclub, he is shown standing to one side of the room while his friends mix on the dance floor, and the highly conscious use of Renton as narrator emphasises his distance from his peers:

“The situation was becoming serious. Young Renton noticed the haste with which the successful in the sexual sphere, as in all others, segregated themselves from the failures. Heroin had robbed Renton of his sex drive but now it returned with a vengeance. And as the impotence of those days faded into memory, grim desperation took a hold in his sex-crazed mind.”

This voice-over heightens Renton’s isolation by having him refer to himself in the third person, and also its literary quality, with the emphasis placed on the spoken ellipsis, signals his dual role as both a participant in the narrative action and as an observer looking in from the outside. The duration of this sequence is clearly indicated, moving from the nightclub to the next morning, but in general, Trainspotting lacks a defined time frame. For example, we do not know what the duration of the Fabula is, how long Renton has been in London, or the amount of time that passes between Tommy experimenting with heroin and his death. Though the Soyuz Het is basically linear, with some flashbacks and some flashforwards, the structure of the film is episodic. The pool hall sequence, for example, jumps from the present to Begbie’s version of the past, to the future in which Tommy gives his version of events, and back to the present without specifying how much time has passed between the three elements of this sequence.

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Trainspotting also cuts across genres mixing realism with fantasy, offering the characters as ‘the redemption of material impoverishment through aesthetic transformation. The film depicts poverty realistically, but in a way that encompasses the possibility of escape as well as entrapment, and in exploiting the aesthetics of film draws a kind of vitality from grinding poverty. However, this redemption through aesthetics is not achievable in Scotland and is only fulfilled in the film’s London sequences. In Edinburgh, the addicts typically walk from one place to another, but to reach the highlands they take a train and this shows that it is a part of Scotland that is physically removed from their lives and that an exceptional effort has to be made. The strangeness of this environment is evident in Sick Boy’s demands for instruction on arrival, and his shock at Tommy’s suggestion they go for a walk. The silence and tranquillity of the Scottish mountains is a feature of advertising campaigns to attract tourists to Scotland, and in this context represents hot nationalism masquerading as the everyday. However, Spud’s observation that the landscape is ‘not natural’ signals the remoteness of this idea of Scotland from the housing scheme the characters inhabit in Edinburgh, and points to the fact that Scotland is a construction that marginalises many Scots. In one sequence an American tourist enters a pub, and asks to use the toilet and simply assumes their compliance without waiting for a reply. Once in the toilet he is repeatedly assaulted and robbed, and the value of tourism to the Scottish economy is to be found, as far as Renton and Begbie are concerned, in the opportunity for crime to fuel their addictions.

As Renton and Spud run through the streets of Edinburgh having shoplifted from John Menzies they pass in front of the National Gallery of Scotland. By dividing the screen aesthetically, a long shot represents the relationship between the life of the Renton and Spud, and of ‘official’ Scotland as being distinct and separate: the gallery stands impassive in the background, static and oblivious to the action before it, while the two addicts sprint across the foreground. The vertical columns of the gallery echo the vertical lines of the title shot, of the flats as Renton walks to the betting shop, and of the group as tourists in the Highlands and the mountain itself. In all these sequences the horizontal cuts across the vertical, indicating that Renton’s life is on a different axis, and the static, frontal camera further suggests that this state of affairs will not change.

Whether it is the heroin addicts, Begbie’s pursuit of violence for its own sake, or Renton’s mother, whose use of valium renders her a ‘socially acceptable’ addict, everyone in Trainspotting is addicted to something. It is something that is endemic to Scotland, and Scottishness itself may be interpreted as an addiction, which like heroin affords a means of escaping the reality of the council estates, underemployment, and social exclusion. The unnaturalness of the highlands is one example of how the ‘real’ problems of Scotland may be elided through an unquestioned belief in an image of Scotland. The addictive quality of Scottishness is also evident in Sick Boy’s obsession with Sean Connery as James Bond, which as Renton observes is hardly a substitute for the former’s lack of moral fibre.


 

Renton Chooses “Life” in London

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Renton’s ultimate escape from heroin and from Scottishness lies in London. The representation of London is stylistically excessive: where there is an absence of images of Edinburgh we are treated to a deluge of images of London. The capital is represented through a series of tourist images (Tower Bridge, Carnaby Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square), and the use of the familiar signifiers of Britishness (black cabs, London buses). The representation of London is not constructed along the lines of the vertical and the horizontal that we have become used to in representing Edinburgh: Big Ben and Nelson’s Column jut in from the side of the screen at unusual angles, and rather than remaining static the camera twists and move around these well-known landmarks so that they are at once familiar and exotic. Unlike the relentless gloom of Edinburgh, London is shown in bright daylight; and where the former is dominated by a grey and brown colour scheme the latter is dominated by the vivid of red of the buses or the doorman’s coat and the metallic shine of Lloyd’s building. This sequence represents an image of a British city that is marked by its multiculturalism and includes shots Pearly Kings and Queens, tourists, a group of bikers, and of a black man playing the steel drum. This last shot implies that in modern Britain issues of colonisation can be overcome to create an inclusive community that inhabits a single space. Similarly, there is also a place for distinctive subcultures (the bikers), and the shots of the Pearly King and Queen places them on a London bus indicating that the distinctive regional cultures of the UK can be accommodated within the nation. Whereas Edinburgh is marked by its cultural homogeneity – all the Scottish characters are of the same ethnic and class grouping, and all hail from the same council estate on the margins of the city, London is a hybrid city. It is also a unified city – in the absence shots of the city from the air or panoramic views from the city’s high points Trainspotting does not define the overall space of Edinburgh, whereas the map that dominates the wall of the estate agents gives us a sense of the size and scale of London as a single entity.

The image of Britishness that we are presented with is one that is open to all forms of identity, even Scottishness – Renton simply moves to London and gets a job with apparently no trouble at all. Despite his Scottish accent, he has no trouble in being understood. Renton takes a job as an estate agent, and this has two significant aspects. First, he is engaged in the selling of space. Unlike Edinburgh, where Renton’s experience of interior spaces is through squalor, drug use, faeces, boredom, and terror, as an estate agent, he emphasises the positive aspects of London spaces and the opportunities they offer. Even his name, Renton, implies an intimate connection with the appropriation of space as aspirational. Second, he is shown to be participating and benefiting from the 1980s property boom. Trainspotting is thus perhaps only the second British film, alongside Chariots of Fire, to present a favourable image of the United Kingdom in the Thatcher era.

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Renton’s decision at the end of the film to rip off his ‘friends’ marks his final acceptance of Britishness. He initially tries to isolate himself from the world, again returning to the interior world of the heroin addict, claiming there was no such thing as society and even if there was he most certainly had nothing to do with it. But he is soon becoming integrated into London life. Sick Boy asks Renton if he wants to sell his passport, which the latter immediately refuses and feels sufficiently threatened by to place his passport in a storage locker. In protecting his passport he protects his British identity and his means of escaping the Scotland Sick Boy and Begbie represent.

“Now I’ve justified this to myself in all sorts of ways. It wasn’t a big deal, just a minor betrayal. Or we’d outgrown each other, you know, that sort of thing. But let’s face it, I ripped them off – my so called mates. But Begbie, I couldn’t give a s*it about him. And Sick Boy, well, he’d have done the same to me, if he’d only thought of it first. And Spud, well okay, I felt sorry for Spud – he never hurt anybody. So why did I do it? I could offer a million answers – all false. The truth is that I’m a bad person. But, that’s gonna change – I’m going to change. This is the last of that sort of thing. Now I’m cleaning up and I’m moving on, going straight and choosing life. I’m looking forward to it already… I’m gonna be just like you…” — Mark “Rent-boy” Renton.

Renton’s use of heroin to escape Scotland is thus replaced with his acceptance of Britishness. At the end of the film, London is presented in the early morning haze as Renton flees his friends for the last time, and this shot gives an impressionistic view of the capital that recalls Claude Monet’s paintings of Charing Cross Bridge. Prior to this, subjective shots have been associated with heroin, as in Renton’s overdose and withdrawal, and though this is a shot that shows Renton the use of the voice-over clearly indicates that this reflects his new approach to life. He walks away from his previous life in Scotland for the final time, but he cannot abandon his Scottishness, and his decision to enter into the community, to “choose life” and to “be like you” is announced in a Scottish accent. Renton chooses to reinterpret the banality of his Scottish identity in the context of ‘hot’ Britishness nationalism, and as he walks across the Thames in the morning sun he emerges from the darkness Scotland into the light of Britishness as both a Scot and Briton.

 


 

Choose Life. Choose: “Trainspotting.”

Image result for trainspotting posterTrainspotting arrived in Cinemas 20 years ago. It was a pop-cultural event —ascent from hotly tipped indie film to bona fide pop culture phenomenon happened so seamlessly and rapidly, it’s easy to overlook how thrilling and unlikely a success story it was. By the end of its theatrical run, it had become the second highest-grossing British film of all time, behind 1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral – an unlikely bedfellow if ever there was one. To this day, it remains one of only a handful of ‘fully’ British films (ie with no American studio attachments) to have grossed over £10m at the domestic box office. So why did Trainspotting capture the popular imagination in a way that few British indie films have before or since? Partly, it’s a case of impeccable timing. The film is, of course, synonymous with the Britpop era, thanks largely to soundtrack contributions from the likes of Blur, Pulp, Underworld and Sleeper. But, crucially, Trainspotting landed while the musical movement was still imbued with a little rock’n’roll swagger, before its inevitable decline towards corporate blandness.

Over the years, the film has been attacked as pro-drug and defended as anti-drug, but actually, it is simply pragmatic. Not once does the film outright glorify heroin usage, it remains against the habit for the majority of the film, however, the characters’ mindsets are explored in-depth and we are treated to a devil’s advocate point of view regarding it all. Through the descriptions of what it’s like, there is a sense of intrigue and sympathy for these people who have entered the vicious cycle of addiction.

Since a sequel is on its way in less than a month (which would be an adaptation of Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh’s follow-up novel “Porno” and would feature the original cast and crew)— those who are interested in a definitive 90’s classic that shows elements of inspiration for the likes of Edgar Wright and younger energetic directors alike, choose Renton, choose Iggy Pop, choose Edinburgh, choose darker comedy, choose clubs, choose bars, choose chaos, choose lunacy, choose friendship, choose ambitious filmmaking, choose life, choose Trainspotting.

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T2: Trainspotting arrives in theatres on January 27, 2017.

T2: Trainspotting 2 – Trailer (2017)


© 2017 asifahsankhan

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