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Trainspotting_(film)

Trainspotting (film)

Trainspotting is a 1996 Scottish film directed by Danny Boyle based on the novel Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. The movie is about a group of heroin addicts in late 1980s Edinburgh and their passage through life. It stars Ewan McGregor as Mark Renton, Ewen Bremner as Spud, Jonny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, Kevin McKidd as Tommy, Robert Carlyle as Begbie and Kelly Macdonald as Dianne. Author Irvine Welsh also has a brief appearance as hapless drug dealer Mikey Forrester.

The Academy Award-nominated screenplay, by John Hodge, was adapted from Welsh's novel. It does not contain any references to the non-drug-related hobby of train spotting. The title is a reference to an episode in the original book (not included in the film) where Begbie and Renton meet "an auld drunkard", who turns out to be Begbie's estranged father, in the disused Leith Central railway station, which they are visiting to use as a toilet. He asks them, in a weak attempt at a joke, if they are "trainspottin'" (p309, Minerva edition).

Plot

Set in Edinburgh, the film begins with a narration from Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) while he and his friend Spud (Ewen Bremner) run down a street after shoplifting to raise cash, with security guards in pursuit. Renton states that unlike people who "choose life" (a traditional family lifestyle with children and material possessions), he and his friends have opted out of ambitious pursuits, preferring to live in a blissful, meaningless heroin-induced stupor. We are introduced to his friends: smooth player Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), awkward hanger-on Spud, clean-cut footballer Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and unpredictable psychopath Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Sick Boy, obsessed with Sean Connery films, is also a heroin addict, as is Spud. In contrast, Tommy and Begbie openly criticise heroin use. Tommy lives an athletic, drug-free lifestyle. Begbie does not believe in drugs but he is ironically a vicious drunk who receives pleasure from physical violence. In the second scene, Renton decides to quit heroin. He buys rectal suppositories that he has to retrieve from a filthy toilet, before locking himself into a room to undergo withdrawal.

Renton is still struggling with temptation as he stays off heroin. Their "friendship" with Begbie is illustrated when Begbie casually throws his pint glass off a bar balcony, injuring a woman and causing a violent brawl. Renton later joins his friends and goes to a dance club where all five are in pursuit of sex. After complaining about his relationship problems with Lizzy to his friends, Tommy takes Lizzy home for sex while watching a porno video of themselves, until they discover that the tape is missing and instead a football tape goes on. Renton had previously stolen their personal sex film while claiming to borrow the football video. Tommy believes he returned it to the video rental store accidentally - a point of contention with Lizzy that leads to the end of their relationship. Spud drinks too much alcohol, as he is in a temporary abstinent relationship with his girlfriend Gail. That night, when Gail tries to have sex, Spud passes out and defecates all over her bed. Renton flirts with a bold young girl named Dianne (Kelly Macdonald), who quickly dissects his bad chat-up lines, but takes him home anyway. After the two have sex, Renton is forced to sleep on a couch outside her bedroom and discovers the next morning that he is actually at her parents' house and that she is a schoolgirl under the age of sexual consent. He tries to end this relationship, but she blackmails him into staying in contact lest she call the police and inform them of their one-night stand.

With their quest to be sober not as thrilling as hoped, Sick Boy, Spud and Renton decide to get back on heroin. The film shows a montage of thefts, dealings, and drug taking while Renton narrates that he and his mates tried all chemicals available in the streets - they would've injected Vitamin C if it was illegal. Tommy is dumped by Lizzy and takes solace in heroin, having been told it's "the ultimate hit... better than sex." Renton reluctantly gives his friend the drug. The heroin-induced stupor continues for weeks, but is violently interrupted - beginning with the screaming of Allison in their flat. The group discovers Allison's baby daughter, Dawn, has died. The cause of death was neglect while they were all present: an infant's distorted wails play over the preceding drug montage. All are shocked and feel terrible - most of all Sick Boy, who was, as is revealed, the father. However, they continue taking heroin. Renton and Spud are later caught stealing from a shop as the run down a street, as was seen in opening scene of the film. Spud is sentenced to prison but Renton avoids punishment by enlisting in a Drug Interventions Programme where he is put through a gradual rehabilitation and supplied with the heroin substitute methadone.

Even though his second journey to sobriety begins with much love from his parents and friends, Renton is back at the flat of his dealer Swanney (Peter Mullan) within a few days. He orders a lot of heroin and overdoses. Swanney and a taxi driver drag the lifeless Renton to the hospital, where his life is saved. Seeing no other option, Renton's parents take him home and lock him in his own bedroom to beat the addiction cold turkey. While sweating it out of his system, he has several hallucinations, including Begbie threatening to "kick it out", Spud in chains, a drug addicted and diseased Tommy. Finally he sees Dawn, Allison's dead baby, crawling toward him on the ceiling while he screams and cries for his mother. This is intercut with a bizarre imagined TV gameshow in which the host (Dale Winton) asks Renton's mother and father" "Is he guilty... or not guilty?".

Clean of heroin, Renton feels no purpose in life. He visits Tommy, who is dying of Toxoplasmosis in his dark and filthy apartment. His girlfriend Dianne visits him and advises him to move. Renton moves to London and starts a job as a property letting agent. He continues his sobriety while enjoying the vibrancy of London and saving up money on the side, while corresponding with Diane. His happiness is again short-lived - Begbie arrives at his London flat seeking a hiding place from the police for armed robbery. Sick Boy also shows up and Renton feels increasingly frustrated that he cannot turn his "mates" away. As things are boiling over in the small space, the three are told of Tommy's death back in Scotland. They return home and meet Spud, who is now out of prison.

Following Tommy's funeral, Sick Boy suggests a large and dangerous opportunity for them; the chance to buy two kilos of heroin for £4000 and sell it for up to £20,000. Begbie demands that Renton put up much of the money, having seen Renton's bank statements. Though he is wary about the deal, Renton agrees. The four meet a professional heroin dealer and sell him the heroin for £16,000, leading to a happy afternoon celebration between in a downtown pub. They have a good time in the pub until Begbie, in a fit of misguided anger, attacks a customer and glasses him before kicking his skull in. As his friends try to stop this, Begbie accidentally slices Spud's hand open with a knife. Renton has already been thinking about stealing all the money for himself. As Begbie stands over his mangled, bloodied victim and demands a cigarette to come down from his "high", Renton resolves that he will steal the money from his mates, who, he has come to understand, are not his mates at all.

Early the next morning, Renton pulls the bag of money away from a sleeping Begbie. Renton looks at Spud, who is awake and has seen everything but does not wake the others. Renton leaves and vows to live the stable, traditional life he described at the beginning of the film as he walks through London in the sunrise. When Begbie awakes he begins to smash apart the room in rage - the last time Begbie is seen, he is preparing his knives as the police bang on the door. In the final scene, Spud later finds £2000 left for him by Renton in a locker.

Cast

Actor Role
Ewan McGregor Mark Renton
Ewen Bremner Daniel "Spud" Murphy
Jonny Lee Miller Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson
Robert Carlyle Francis Begbie
Kevin McKidd Tommy MacKenzie
Kelly Macdonald Dianne Coulston
Peter Mullan Swanney "Mother Superior"
Eileen Nicholas Mrs. Renton
Susan Vidler Allison
Pauline Lynch Lizzy
Shirley Henderson Gail
Irvine Welsh Mikey Forrester

Critical reception

In the UK, the film garnered almost universal praise from critics. Time Out London called the film "a triumph", saying, "audaciously punching up the pitch-black comedy, juggling parallel character strands and juxtaposing image, music and voice-over with a virtuosity worthy of Scorsese on peak form, Trainspotting the movie captures precisely Welsh's insolent, amoral intelligence. The Guardian newspaper gave the film credit for actually tapping into the youth subculture of the time, compared to other (now forgotten) contemporary British cinema. Esteemed American critic Roger Ebert heaped praise on the film for its stark, realistic portrayal of addicts' experiences with each other.

Its release sparked some controversy in some countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, as to whether it promoted drug use or not. U.S. Senator Bob Dole decried its moral depravity and glorification of drug use during the 1996 U.S. presidential campaign, although he later admitted that he had not actually seen the film. This echoed sentiments Dole had made three years earlier, attacking Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers while lauding more mainstream films like James Cameron's True Lies as being more "family friendly". Despite the controversy, it was praised as an inventive, highly effective film and received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in that year's Academy Awards. Canadian authorities distributed tickets to the film to youths in that country. In 1999 the film came 10th in a BFI poll of British films, while in 2004 the magazine Total Film named it the 4th greatest British film of all time.

The film's release was supported by an imaginative marketing campaign using flyers inspired by rave culture and posters of each of the main actors. Owing to illness, Kevin McKidd went on holiday having finished shooting for the film and did not attend the photoshoot for the posters.

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, sites which search for multiple reviews of films, gave it marks in the high 80s.

Other versions

Upon its initial release in the United States, the first 20 minutes of Trainspotting were re-edited with alternate dialogue. Because of the strong Scottish accents and language of the characters, it was believed that American audiences might have difficulty understanding them. The original dialogue was later restored on the Criterion Collection laserdisc in 1997 and then on the re-release of the "Director's Cut (The Collector's Edition)" DVD in 2004.

Sequel

Boyle has stated his wish to make a sequel to Trainspotting which will take place 9 years after the original film, based on Irvine Welsh's sequel, Porno. He is reportedly waiting until the original actors themselves age visibly enough to portray the same characters, ravaged by time; Boyle joked that the natural vanity of actors would make it a long wait.

According to the director's commentary, the dealer to whom they sell the heroin is actually Hugo from Shallow Grave, Boyle's first film. According to Boyle, Hugo re-sells the heroin, thus obtaining the money he has at the beginning of Shallow Grave, and therefore making the storyline chronologically later than Trainspotting. For this reason, Boyle had actor Keith Allen playing the same character in both movies.

Soundtracks

The Trainspotting soundtracks were two best-selling albums of music centred around the film. The first is a collection of songs featured in the film, while the second includes those left out from the first soundtrack and extra songs that inspired the filmmakers during production.

Locations

Despite being set in Edinburgh almost all of the film was filmed in Glasgow, apart from the opening scenes of the film which were filmed in Edinburgh, and the final scenes which were filmed in London.

Notable locations in the film include:

Parodies

  • The film has been parodied in The Simpsons in the episode "The Regina Monologues". Bart and Lisa, on their sugar rush, parody Renton's cold turkey hallucinations and also the opening chase.
  • An episode of Family Guy named "Love Thy Trophy", includes a scene where Stewie undergoes withdrawal from pancakes much like Renton's in the film. Stewie, at one point, sees himself crawling across the ceiling to look down on him in a parody of the appearance of Allison's baby (complete with the Exorcist-style head turn).
  • A sketch on Channel 4's Adam and Joe Show features a parody of the opening sequence (called "Toytrainspotting"), 'acted out' by toys who are addicted to sherbet.
  • In an episode of Drawn Together where Xandir, Toot and Wooldor Sockbat all get addicted to licking Ling-Ling, Wooldoor is put in a room to get over the addiction cold turkey. Like the film, there is loud music, very fast editing and, ultimately, a parody of the baby on the celling (which is Bam-Bam from The Flinstones).

References

Notes

  • Smith, Murray. 2002. Trainspotting. London: BFI

See also

External links

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