Trainspotting

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Trainspotting (1996) is a British film based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, depicting the lives of a group of young men in seedy, 'wrong side of the tracks' Edinburgh as they are destroyed by heroin addiction. The film is notorious for its depiction of the Edinburgh drugs scene, and its plot, portraying the ostensible efforts of antihero Renton to escape that milieu. The drug scenes are constructed and filmed in brilliant color, to emphasise the 'highs' that they supposedly provide, by contrast with the depiction of clean, everyday life as grim and colourless. The film's most cited line emphasizes its cynical promotion of drugs, by depicting 'life' as an endless cycle of suburban boredom: Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a starter home. Choose dental insurance, leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose your future. . . . 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?[1]

The film's opening song, Lust for Life, was performed by influential punk rocker Iggy Pop, who has struggled with heroin addiction himself.[2] The lyrics include the lines "Yeah, I'm through with sleeping on the sidewalk / No more beating my brains / No more beating my brains / With liquor and drugs / With liquor and drugs."[3] The song was number ten on UGO's list of the Top 11 Uses Of Classic Rock In Cinema.[4]

Defenders of Hollywood values cite this movie as an example of Hollywood telling the truth about the harm caused by drugs, but it shows "cool" people engaging in drugs and enjoying it. This movie, like most Hollywood representation of drug use, portrays the users as sympathetic victims rather than as the perpetrators of evil. For example, the single mother Lesley who eventually lets her baby die from cot death and suggested neglect. Presidential candidate Bob Dole said the film "glorified heroin"[5] (though he later admitted he had not seen the movie).[6]

In an interesting review, critic Roger Ebert said "The movie has been attacked as pro-drug and defended as anti-drug, but actually it is simply pragmatic. It knows that addiction leads to an unmanageable, exhausting, intensely uncomfortable daily routine, and it knows that only two things make it bearable: a supply of the drug of choice, and the understanding of fellow addicts."[7]

Despite the name, Trainspotting does not have anything directly to do with the hobby of train spotting, in which railfans keep track of the rolling stock they've seen.[8] The name refers to a scene in the original novel that describes the main protagonists encounter with his drunkard father in a train station which highlights the importance of family values in bringing up stable and healthy members of society. This scene was not included in the film.

References

  1. Metaphilm.com, Trainspotting, Addicted to Denial, If a train is heading toward you, ignorance does not lead to bliss., by Adam Dobson, retrieved 10/24/08[1]
  2. NNDB, Iggy Pop, retrieved 10/24/08[[2]
  3. LyricsMode.com, Lust For Life lyrics by Iggy Pop, retrieved 10/24/08[3]
  4. UGO.com, Top 11 Uses Of Classic Rock In Cinema, 10. "Lust For Life" by Iggy Pop in Trainspotting, retrieved 10/24/08[4]"Despite protestations from the filmmakers and the inclusion of a horrific detox scene, Trainspotting makes being a Scottish junkie look totally awesome. Why? Because when you run from the cops, smash into cars and the movie freeze-frames to show your nickname you have "Lust For Life" thumping underneath."
  5. The Aisle Seat - "Trainspotting", by Mike McGranaghan [5]
  6. Salon.com, The fall and fall of Bob Dole, Old soldiers never die, but they can get beaten up really badly, by Andrew Ross, Sep 19, 1996[6]
  7. Trainspotting, BY ROGER EBERT, July 26, 1996 [7]
  8. eHow.com, How to Go Trainspotting, retrieved 10/24/08[8]
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