Trainspotting Essay, Research Paper
It is easy to say that Trainspotting revolves around Heroin addiction in Leith. Whilst this is strictly true, to gain a full appreciation of the novel and to appreciate the dramatically honed down movie, we must understand the underlying themes. With the exception of Spud in the novel, none of the main characters appear to be along for the ride when it comes to heroin addiction. The novel s underlying theme for me is fear. All the characters, with the exception of Begbie and Diane show fear throughout the novel. They re too scared to take heroin in case they overdose or contract HIV, they re scared to buy it because the journey might involve a kicking and they re scared of what will be waiting for them in the cold light of day when the high wears off. At the same time they re too scared not to take heroin because what would they do? Could they get a job? Do they want a job and if not why not, do they choose not to join the rat race or are they too scared that they couldn t if they tried. They re all too scared of Begbie to tell him that they do not wish to socialise with him and would rather suffer the fear that he could turn on them in any second rather than lose the comfort of his misplaced loyalty to them. They would rather be on Begbie s side than against him although deep down they know that as far as Begbie is concerned, everyone is against him. Maybe they feel that they need to have ranking order. I ve noticed that some people who choose not to work end up adopting the principles of those who do. They turn up at the pub, library, DHSS etc religiously every day at the same time and seem to be part of a hierarchy structure where in this case, Begbie is the boss. Indeed, whilst each character shows a little fear throughout, this is balanced nicely with Begbie s apparent complete lack of fear and as such, equilibrium remains.
Another theme which stands out to me in both the novel and the movie is social acceptance. Renton s parents, Begbie and lets face it, a large part of society, all feel that whilst it is inexcusable to become addicted to heroin, it is understandable to have the desire to get absolutely annihilated drinking alcohol. When Renton is taken to his local pub by his parents when he is attempting to come off heroin they are not slow to pass the pints . Neither they nor Begbie can see that both heroin and alcohol are used to achieve the same goal. What the novel forces us to look at is why we feel that it is ok to seek oblivion after a hard week at the office yet it is not ok to seek oblivion when we have done nothing that week except score more heroin. Surely both consumers are equally as unhappy with their lives.
Trainspotting, the novel, is bleak and realistic. Whilst sparse on humour, the one-liners and comic observations when they do appear are ridiculously funny and easy to relate to, for example when Renton asks do Ethiopians not have glands . There are far more characters in the book and at times I found it a little confusing trying to figure out who was who. Whilst language use helped to differentiate between characters, I noticed the Irvine Welsh granted all the characters, with the exception of Renton, a little more wit, wisdom and insight than they were given in the film, especially Spud who was allowed to develop far more in the novel. The novel allows the reader to visualise and censor some of the more disturbing scenes for themselves, such as when the dog is killed in the park, when Renton reaches down the toilet to retrieve his opium suppositories, and when he has sex with his brother s girlfriend at his brother s funeral, which is not portrayed in any shape or form as a moving, romantic or even an understandable action on Renton s part. Whilst the first two scenes mentioned are adapted for the film, (instead of killing the bluebottle and scrawling Hibs across the toilet door with its blood, Renton instead disappears down the toilet and emerges to take part in what seems like a surreal dream sequence where he swims in clean blue sterile calming waters to retrieve the suppositories) and instead of killing the dog, the movie cuts off as the dog is hit with a sling shot and attacks its owner, who, dressed like a skinhead is and looking as though he only owns the dog for its potential viciousness, deserves it. The scene where Renton has sex with his brother s girlfriend is cut completely; in fact we are not even told that Renton has a brother, Billy, in the Film. Another scene which is cut from the film is when the body is found not to have miraculously revived itself but instead to have been warmed by an electric blanket which someone had neglected to switch off. Whilst it was possible to make this funny in the book, I doubt it would have been manageable to make it at best tasteless in the movie.
The movie comes across almost like a pop video to me. From the start when the characters are introduced, almost like 2 dimensional cartoon super-heroes, we are treated to an onslaught of fast paced visuals and dialogue with a stomping soundtrack to boot. Whilst Renton is obviously better looking in the film than in the novel and thankfully does not dye his hair black in the movie, he is still,only just, believable in the role. Again with sick boy, I get the impression that whilst he is seen to be good-looking by his friends who appear to be judging him against themselves, (an ugly bunch in the book) that he is not particularly attractive in the book (ponytail and dress sense give this away) whilst in the film he is absolutely gorgeous by most peoples standards and looks as fit and healthy as a fiddle throughout. The film shies away from the political implications and Glasgow/Edinburgh divide issues which Irvine Welsh simply but very effectively illustrates and highlights in the chapter Bang to Rites. I think it was wise to omit this from the film, as to dabble in political opinion when the film was produced for general release would have been at best risky and at worst pretentious. One of the most horrific chapters in the book which did not make it to the screen was Bad Blood which detailed Davie s revenge on Alan Venters for infecting both his girlfriend and in turn himself with the HIV virus after raping her in what was described at the end of the chapter as an horrific attack. It is not Davie but Tommy who contracts HIV in the film, ironically dieing of toxoplasmosis instead.
The director and producer of Trainspotting stated that there were many issues, characters and scenes dropped from the film either because the audience was ahead of the story and did not need it reiterated to them for example when Renton and Sick Boy discuss the problem of not so much coming of heroin but finding something to fill the void once they were clean. It was felt that the audience had already grasped this without having it spelled out to them again. The scene where Spud tries not to succeed in gaining employment was used in the film, however Renton s attempt was omitted as the director felt that it was impossible to convey Renton s panic when realising that he might actually get the job.
I noticed in the film that when characters used heroin they immediately sank into the carpet and seemed to remain there until the high had worn off. In the book however, after a hit the characters seemed to be able to proceed with their day and their plans as if heroin didn t make them high, it just made them normal which seems to be a more realist idea of its long term effects. After watching the film, I felt sympathy with the characters, especially Renton and felt distaste for the members of society who s narrow mindedness judged him and his addiction with different standards than those which they chose to judge their own. I felt that Renton was misunderstood and a victim of society and its mundane nature, after all when someone feels they understand life and how little it has to offer them, it is unfair to expect them to participate enthusiastically if at all.
On reading the book, to a certain point my views remained the same. My views were, however, turned completely on their head when Mother Superior gladly accepted the woman s last twenty-pound note which she give him in remembrance of her son who had died in the war. At that point I just wanted to throw the book away as I realised that there was little to nothing loveable, redeeming or interesting about the characters and that the woman, who I would have perceived as ordinary or boring at the start of the book was actually more interesting, human and likable than any of the characters in the book.
Although most of the characters are dumbed down in the film, it is still easy to see why the film works so well. It is not in effect a character study but more a study of what society does to ones character. After watching the film, which I unfortunately saw before reading the book, I thought there but for the grace of god go I . I imagined that had I fallen in with the wrong crowd that I could have easily ended up another Renton (every viewer likes to see themselves as the Renton, never the far more realistic Spud of the movie). However, after reading the book I realised that there was never the slightest possibility that I would have ended up anything like or even moving in the same circles as any of the characters. In fact, I don t even know where these people exist. In the film, it seems as if they are harmless unfortunates who have fallen in with the wrong crowd. In the novel however, they are the wrong crowd.