Re-Watch: Trainspotting (1996)

Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge
Based on: Irvine Welsh’s novel
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Peter Mullan, Shirley HendersonJames Cosmo, Irvine Welsh
Seen on: 12.3.2017

Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommie (Kevin McKidd) and Spud (Ewen Bremner) are friends. At least as much as you can be friends with anybody you share a heroin addiction with. And don’t necessarily like each other all that much. As they tumble through Edinburgh, alternatively looking to buy the next hit and to kick the habit altogether, their paths cross with the same people over and over again, people like the violent Begbie (Robert Carlyle). They all struggle with their own problems but at least they are not stuck in the wheel of capitalism. Or that’s what Renton tells himself.

It’s been many years since I saw the film (although some images have burned themselves into my retina, they are that present in my head). Re-watching it now, I’m still very much taken with it. It’s a really great film, despite a couple of weaknesses.

Trainspotting is not only a very good film, it’s also a great adaption of the book, managing to bundle its multiperspective, not necessarily chronological wildness into a more coherent narrative that nevertheless retains the colorful patchwork feeling. Emotionally the biggest difference for me was the ending, that weighs a lot heavier in the book and doesn’t come with quite as much humor as in the film. I may prefer the book version slightly, but I like both.

There are things that are rather problematic about the film. The drug scenes, brimming with fantasy and scored to awesome music, are rather close to paint drugs and addiction in a way too positive light. When Renton takes a swim in a toilet, you forget that he just dived into shit, it looks so nice. And that’s not necessarily the best way to portray drug use. That being said, there are enough absolutely aweful things that happen to provide a counterweight for those moments.

There are some more scenes that didn’t sit all that well with me (up until this re-watch I hadn’t noticed), in particular the scene with the trans woman that one would hope wouldn’t make it into a film nowadays (although, let’s face it, it probably would).

But there are more scenes that work perfectly. The cast is great (Trainspotting was probably the starting point for my love for Scottish accents, so that’s also a plus), the pacing is pitch-perfect and in all the humor, there is also a strong thread of social criticism. It’s an excellent combination.

Summarizing: Absolutely a modern classic.

1 thought on “Re-Watch: Trainspotting (1996)

  1. Pingback: T2 Trainspotting (2017) | kalafudra's Stuff

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