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25 Years Later: Trainspotting

9 July 21 words: Manvir Basi

This British classic and its brilliant soundtrack remain just as vital today, writes Manvir Basi...

Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller
Running time: 93 minutes

“Choose a life. Choose a job. Choose a career.” The immortal words of Mark Renton roar out of the screen in beat to Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life and 25 years later, Trainspotting is still relevant and vibrant as ever.

The film grabs hold of us and doesn’t let go, as we are sucked into the world of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, Begbie and Tommy. Intermixed with highs of drugs, sex and alcohol are passionate discussions about Sean Connery, George Best and Iggy Pop.

Many directors use music in their films but only a handful actually use it correctly. The music is not for tone as such but rather used in rhythm with the editing and camerawork in the scene.

In Trainspotting, this is taken to a whole other level, with two standout moments. One being the sensational use of Sleeper’s Atomic on Renton and his friends’ wild night out. The dramatic build-up of the song intertwines with the group’s sexual escapades.

Trainspotting resonated with the times...but as new generations discover the film and fall under its spell, it continues to speak to them and their own circumstances

The other being a genius scene where Renton gets on a high of a high and overdoses, falling into a red carpeted grave. The entire scene is cut to and from Renton’s view, as we see him being transferred to a hospital, with the scene perfectly scored by Lou Reed’s Perfect Day

Since its release to commercial and critical acclaim, Trainspotting landed a place on the BFI Top 100 British Films of all Time. The soundtrack boasting the likes of Underworld, Blur, Pulp alongside Iggy Pop and Lou Reed was ranked 13th on the Rolling Stone’s 25 greatest soundtracks of all time.

For many, Trainspotting resonated with them and the times upon release. Yet, as new generations discover the film and fall under its spell, it continues to speak to them and their own circumstances. That’s why we go to the cinema. 

The alternative? Watching as Renton puts it, “mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows”. 

I know which one I would choose.

Did you know? Iggy Pop agreed to let the film’s producers use his music after David Bowie, a fan of Boyle’s previous film Shallow Grave, vouched for Boyle’s work. After Bowie’s death in 2016, Boyle paid tribute to him in a scene from the sequel, T2, where Renton discovers his old records and picks out one of Bowie’s records.

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