Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trainspotting (DVD) 1996 / a film by Danny Boyle; based on the novel by Irvine Welsh; starring Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Kelly MacDonald, Johnny Lee Miller & Ewan Bremner

"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?"
Mark "Rent Boy" Renton and his friends Spud and Sick Boy are heroin junkies in Edinburgh. For Mark and friends, getting stoned--though they'd never call it that ("People think it's all about misery and desperation and death and all that . . . which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn't do it.")--is 'the means' and 'the end' of their existence. It constitutes everything about their daily routine; sober individuals are the ones with the abnormal lifestyle as they see it. That each are petty criminals, stealing almost unconsciously to support their habit, goes without saying. And as especially exemplary representatives of their skid row sector of society, they keep company with some of the most degenerate individuals including one guy, Begbie, a ferocious, nearly psychotic hothead, who they admit to being too scared not to hang out with. But though absent of responsibility or maturity, it's not as if Mark or his friends are incapable of normal lives. On the contrary, all are middle class and most come from relatively decent families. Mark himself is intelligent and insightful with two caring parents whose honest attempts at intervention have simply been offset by his own determined efforts at waywardness.
Periodically, they all try to quit the habit, even succeeding for short intervals. After all, nothing's more harshly sobering than when Tommy, another member of their clique and ironically the least addicted of them all, tests positive for HIV and dies. At one point Mark himself walls up permanently inside a one room and, in an obscenely wretched affair in which he's sick constantly and hallucinates frequently, he finally gets clean. He subsequently manages the straight path for a while, landing a job in London where he steers clear of bad influences until his friends locate him with an offer he can't pass up. They've stumbled upon a stash they know they can sell for thousands if they just play their cards right. Of course none of them trust the other now that sobriety has entered their lives and so all bets are off until the transaction is made. But even then, who are they to obey the rules?
Trainspotting is nothing short of brilliant. Wildly popular almost instantaneously upon its release--Welsh's equally successful novel preceded the cinema adaptation by two years--it remains a film of timeless fascination. It's become almost an institution, really. Through the provocative, if countercultural message it communicates, it depicts individuals who go through life's conflicts and challenges simply by refusing to confront them at all. Of course they're also individuals who will likely never make a positive contribution to society. The lives of Renton and his crew (as well as their dream lives) indelibly revolve around getting high, causing trouble, destroying themselves and others and generally going about life the hard way by always taking the easy way out. But Trainspotting avoids extremes: it's not a film to preach the ills of depravity or glorify drug escapism. Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and the stellar cast, McGregor and Carlyle in particular, help ensure that drugs are never celebrated, that the lifestyle's never glamourized or social dissidence never approved of as a viable option to common problems. But neither is a domineering moral code given license to ruin any fun. With enlightening juxtaposition, it manages to show a world which is at the same time deeply disturbing and ironically charming, frighteningly immoral and candidly honest, perfectly practical and manically absurd; at all times a vivid, moving and highly satisfactory right up until the last scene. (DVD TRAINSPO)

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