“I’m worth a million in prizes Yeah, I’m through with sleeping on the sidewalks No more beating my brains With the liquor and drugs…” - Iggy Pop, ‘Lust for Life’

Trainspotting opens with what may be the most inspired pairing of music and image since the Door’s The End and Apocalypse Now. Youths run wild, careening through the streets with pilfered goods spilling from their pockets like some materialistic breadcrumb trail; and throughout, the Iggster’s menacing yelp goads them on - “I got a lust for life! A lust for life!”

The irony of a new film that finds its perfect lyrical counterpart in a song from 1977 is strangely appropriate. Trainspotting’s Renton (Ewan McGregor) seems to have jumped the tracks of life - and it’s only by going back to a past, less focused stage of life that he can find solace and move forward.

Bouncing back and forth between heroin junkie and clean drifter, Renton struggles with his addiction, all the while enduring and enjoying his motley crew of friends and their wicked, wicked ways. There’s Spud (Ewen Bremmer), a dimwitted by well-meaning Cletus who can’t seem to ever get ahead; Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller), whose obsession with James Bond is overshadowed only by his narcissism and addiction; Tommy (Kevin McKidd), the earnest footballer; and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), the only one of the group not addicted to hard drugs. Begbie is a human pitbull, incredibly violent and one incredibly hard nut. As Renton describes him, “Begbie didn’t do drugs - he just did people.”

Into this already chaotic gathering is injected copious amounts of heroin, which, as Renton tells us, is their replacement for ‘life’ - the nine to five, the wife, the couch and the monotony. “I choose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?” But it soon seems that to survive, Renton must choose either life or death. In Trainspotting’s world, though, life doesn’t come cheap.

Trainspotting is based on the 1993 novel by Irvine Welsh, and considering the novel’s style and language, the producers have done an incredible job of translating the spirit of the novel to film. Scriptwriter John Hodge has given the main narrative voice to Renton, who gives the audience a clear entrance into this crazy world. Renton (whose voice-over acts as our guide through the mouth of madness) may be chronically fucked up and unsympathetic at times, but he’s the most human of any of the characters and that’s what keeps us involved.

And involved we are - you can feel director Danny Boyle pull you in and wrap his big celluloid arms around you. Boyle, with cinematographer Brian Tufano (both from Shallow Grave), use a bleak colour palette and an industrialized feel to communicate the utter misery of the characters’ environment. It’s a compelling aesthetic where everything is like an automobile accident, repelling and strangely attractive all at once.

Trainspotting is currently running the gamut of intense hype and accolades from all over the world, and believe it - it’s worth it. Just imagine the film child of Mike Leigh’s Naked and Darryll Wasyk’s H and then keep going. From some overcranked hallucinogenic sequences to its uncompromising brutal depiction of heroin addiction, Trainspotting is a serious kick in the head. And that’s a good thing.

ISSN 1499-7894
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