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March 4, 2011

911. Trainspotting
Directed by Danny Boyle
UK, 1996
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing


A troubling look into the drug scene of Edinburgh with heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his rather unlikeable friends.

Essential Scene:

Renton is determined to come off heroin, and meets with his dealer for something to help with the withdrawal. The dealer supplies him with opium suppositories, which Renton immediately… uses. Unfortunately for Renton, his heroin induced constipation immediately goes away and he is racked with a very urgent pain.

Renton: (voice-over) I fantasize about a massive pristine convenience. Brilliant gold taps, virginal white marble, a seat carved from ebony, a cistern full of Chanel no.5, and a flunky handing me pieces of raw silk toilet roll. But under the circumstances I’ll settle for anywhere.

Renton, in desperation, enters what we‘re told is “The Worst Toilet in Scotland.” And it really, really is. You don’t need me to describe it, I’m sure the mental picture is already forming in your mind.

To his horror, he realises that he has lost his suppositories after relieving himself. He delves his hands into the un-flushed toilet, and dry heaves his way through searching for his drugs. In a sudden twist, he slides head first into the toilet, and as Bizet’s “Carmen” plays in the background, he disappears into the bowl.

The dingy, disgusting cubicle becomes a crystal clear underwater world with a calm blue tinge. Renton finds his beautiful, shining suppositories and exclaims “Yes, you fucking dancer!” as he rises up to the top. Gasping for breath, his head appears from inside the dank, stained toilet bowl, and we’re back in the smelly reality.


Renton: (voice-over) Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

Although Trainspotting is its own film, I can’t quite ignore how similar it is to A Clockwork Orange. Renton’s narration takes us through his degradation, but he never once apologises for his life. He is even proud of elements of it. Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange is equally unapologetic, steeped in self-pity and arrogance as he refuses to take any blame for his circumstances.

In both cases, the government completely fails to stop the behaviour of our narrator. Renton’s avoidance of a jail sentence by entering a drugs programme does nothing to stop him going straight back into heroin. The disturbing visuals within Renton’s trips and withdrawals bring to mind Alex’s equally disturbing fantasies, and there is even a direct homage to A Clockwork Orange in the reproduction of the Korova Milk Bar.

Both films have been accused of glorifying their subject matters, but I took Trainspotting to be more of a “look” at a way of life rather than being pro- or even completely anti-drugs. Heroin is hailed by Renton as better than any orgasm, yet the world in which he enjoys this pleasure is sickening, frightening and deadly. The viewer makes up their own mind and hopefully chooses any life other than this in the process.

Well worth a watch for the creepy hallucinations alone — just don’t watch it on a full stomach!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Diane permalink
    March 4, 2011 7:25 pm

    I don’t know how people thought this film glorified drug use. It was pretty ugly from start to finish. Creepy, gross, pathetic, maddening… I was too bummed out to enjoy the “comic” moments. I admire Ewan McGregor’s work but won’t sit through this film again.

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