Trainspotting Film Analysis Essay example

Trainspotting Film Analysis Essay example

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Trainspotting presents an ostensible image of fractured society. The 1996 film opens, famously, with a series of postulated choices—variables, essentially, in the delineation of identity and opposition. Significant here is the tone in which these options are delivered—it might be considered the rhetorical voice of society, a playful exposition of the pressure placed on individuals to make the "correct" choices, to conform to expectation.

As such, the introduction might be read as contributing to the formation of two narrative constructs: that of "normality"—or at least that considered "normality" by prevailing ideology—and that of "subnormality," the remainder. In its uncompromising rejection of the former, the commentary of Ewan McGregor's Renton roots him thoroughly in the latter.

We see this division alluded to on a number of occasions. In the nightclub, for example, Renton quickly notices how the "successful" separate themselves from the "unsuccessful"—the former group embracing their newly-found partners and the latter nodding their heads sheepishly. "Success" is, however, more often linked with boredom and absurdity—with the easy life, with game-shows and bingo; "failure," despite its inherent misery and hardship, is shown to be exhilarating: a knife-edge. The tension inherent in this opposition is offered, arguably, as a reason for the behavioural patterns depicted; "what people forget is the sheer pleasure of it," as Renton confesses.

We might describe the group of friends, united by failure, as classic anti-heroes; as characters with whom we sympathise despite the horrors they commit. It is a reading underpinned by nihilism, and one can't help but recall the Zarathustrian "Table of Values" expounded by Nietzsche....


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...e present and, as such, shapes the future. How free is the individual, if we concede to behavioural determinism? And, if choices on the high-street can be predicted according to, for example, class, gender, education, and origin, can they really qualify as free choices? The characters are perhaps shown as being "unfree," as they are being forced to make a choice—"a job," a "career," a "big television"; to act otherwise is to choose death. Heroin represents this misnomer—it is the unmade choice, the solidification of a philosophical abstraction. Significantly, heroin never actually kills any of the characters—only its accompanying consequences.

To summarise, then, Trainspotting examines the tension caused by segregation and the demands of citizenship, and as such explains social problems as the denial of this tension. Denial is shown only to exacerbate the problems.

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