Trainspotting 1996


I first watched trainspotting two years ago, after reading the 1993 book by ‘Irvine Welsh’.   As raw and gritty as it is, it captured elements of film that I hadn’t seen before, the ‘story’ of taking drugs was enough to put me off taking them for the rest of my life. The film shows the honesty of what taking drugs does to not only you, but people around you, by no means did ‘Danny Boyles’ 1996 film glamorous this.

Trainspotting succeeds in telling the story of youth. Practically Youth that don’t have a vision of where their lives are going, and youth that are hitting the self-district button. Our main character is ‘Renton’ played by Ewan McGregor, and of course he is painted as ‘different’ to the other main characters, ‘Spud’ played by Ewen Bremner, ‘Simon’ played by Johnny Lee Millar, and ‘Begbie’ played by Robert Carlyle. Renton is supposedly a bright young man that has landed in the wrong crowed. We learn this from his home life, his parents are willing to help him in a scene during the middle of the film in which Renton goes ‘Cold turkey’ a phrase that takes centre place in this film.

In my view, the cinematography in this film isn’t amazing, but it’s good. ‘Brian Tufano’ shot the film in a collaboration with Danny Boyle, the entire film is experimental, many of the shots represent what taking drugs are meant to be like. For instance a scene that features the song ‘perfect day’ by Lou Reed, is captured with the crashing shots of the Renton injecting heroin. The scene is perhaps one of the best scenes in cinematic history for showing how drugs react with the human body. The carpet that Renton is lying on gets pulled down around him, almost like he is now in this grave, from this every shot we see from Renton’s point of view, is seen like he is slowly going further and further into the grave. This scene ends with Renton on a stretcher on his way to hospital, to which he is forced into withdrawal. There are endless scenes like this where the viewer is made to feel like they have taken the drugs with them, and it’s not done to allow us to ‘enjoy’ them, it’s purposely done to scare us. The shots seem gritty and grey, it’s almost depressing to watch and feel exposed to. This is due to the film being shot on a small budget, and many of the shots were taken in one take. Arguably there is also one of the most disgusting scenes in cinematic history, featuring ‘the worst toilet in Scotland’ this scene breaks the reality that films can often project, and sends the viewer, with Renton, down the actual toilet. To make this scene even weirder, there is a powering classical music played over the whole scene, which juxtaposes the sweetness of the music with the grimness of such a toilet and scene.


‘Oasis’ were asked to write the soundtrack to Trainspotting, and they declined upon thinking that it was actually a film about looking for trains. That is why the entire film has a widely different mix of songs that reflect the scenes on screen. ‘Underworld, Born Slippy’ is the prominent theme for Trainspotting, it serves as the powerful source of conclusion for the ending of the film. Music will always add to a film, it can make it bad or good, in Trainspotting’s case it’s good, the music is youthful, its represents the era of the film and the decadence of life.

I know for a fact that the acting in this film is brilliant, Ewan McGregor was named best actor from the ‘London film critics circle’ for his portrayal of Renton, and several other cast members were critically acclaimed for their work. The film wasn’t widely acknowledged worldwide, it won a Bafta for best adapted screenplay, but since it’s realises in 1996, it has become a cult classic. The scene which gave Ewan McGregor this award and recognition is in my opinion his withdrawal scene at his parents. It’s completely raw and honest and harrowing to watch, the acting is brilliant, it scares the audience. Within this scene there is once again experimental camera angles, with baby ‘Dawn’ (A baby that was dies from neglect) crawling along his childhood bedroom ceiling and landing on his face, a shot that feels like the baby is landing on ours. Danny Boyle has certainly aimed to make the audience feel as if they are part of the film or one of the characters, it’s so different to the book, in which you are told their story.


Trainspotting is and will forever be a film that made me realise how films can involve and reach an audience. The film doesn’t try funny, yet in some parts it is, in contrast to the absolute tragic parts of the film. I think it’s a film that doesn’t glorify drugs, it glorifies life and how people choose to live it. I am aware that the long awaited sequel is to be realised in 2017 with all the same cast and director returning, I can only hope that it will do the first justice. The tag line for trainspotting is brilliantly ‘choose life’ two simple words, with a lot of meaning.


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