Reviewed by Patrick HarringtonI didn’t get to see this when it was on the big screen. Now it’s out on DVD so I got a second chance to take a look. Generally, when the critics say how great a film is it turns out to be a disappointment. Not this time.
Some of my less well informed friends have asked why the film is called Trainspotting. I shall tell them, and you. In Leith there is now a Scotmid store and Waterworld where once there was an unused and decaying railway yard. Heroin addicts would use this yard to shoot-up and the local joke had it that they were “trainspotting”.
When you sit down to watch this film you can’t help but have questions about whether it glorifies drugtaking; there has been so much comment in the papers and magazines about it. The main characters are heroin addicts and some appear cool. But it’s not the drug taking that makes them cool or aspirational. Indeed the film doesn’t shirk from showing the seedy, nasty lifestyle which addiction helps to build. The neglect of a baby is one case in point. Tommy slowly dying of AIDS is another. Of course his poster of Iggy Pop still looked good as he wasted away.
For me, Trainspotting was a very moral film — it just wasn’t preachy.
Why many on the “right” missed this point is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it was the honesty of the film. It showed that drugs had attractions too. Well, surprise, surprise would people take them otherwise? Or perhaps it was the fact that the soundtrack was so good. Even a bad life set to the likes of Sleeper’s ‘Atomic’, ‘Temptation’ and Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’, might seem great. There was some irony in that the use of ‘Perfect Day’ was over a scene of an overdose. Having the subtlety and sensibility of a pile of bricks, they might have missed it. The soundtrack fitted the film so well. We just know that heroin addicts at that time and place would have been into this music.
The locations in Edinburgh and Leith were chosen with care. My only disappointment was not to see the addicts hanging around by the statue of Queen Victoria at the foot of the walk. London was less well used as a location but hey, the guy who wrote it doesn’t come from there.
What a contrast to the standardised American crap based almost entirely on special effects we are usually bombarded with! It is interesting to note how the British establishment are unable to deal with people who do understand street culture and have honest, thoughtful insights to share. The writer and film-makers would have been listened to far more in other countries. The debate would have been far more intelligent. Will our establishment ever realise that condemning drugs alone is not a solution? It’s just a way of hiding the fact that you don’t have one….