Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I nearly didn't watch this film. In fact, I nearly didn't watch it twice.

A few months ago I videoed it and the audio didn't come out. No idea why, something to do with the digital switchover making everything somehow better.

Tonight I turned on to try to watch it live on Film4, and suddenly found myself turning off again just as it was due to start. Why you ask? Before said channel had decided to preface it with someone (the director?) presenting clips of it! I ask you, I was only trying to watch his film in the way I thought he had intended. (albeit on TV)

Then of course I realised that I was now about to miss a film that I wanted to see, so it became a case of deliberately turning the sound off (HEAVY IRONY) and trying not to look at the screen, while at the same time trying to look at it a bit to guage when the film was starting. How long was this going to go on for? A minute? Twenty minutes? Please Film4. Just. Show. The. Movie. It's really easy. Please.

(Hey, maybe he was talking about a completely different movie, how would I know?)

One of my favourite lines in the Bible is Deuteronomy 30:19b (Good News Version):

"Choose life."

Trainspotting is about a group of people who choose the polar opposite.

"We would've injected vitamin C if only they had made it illegal."

Narrator Renton believes that the only two options in life are conformity, or drugs. Well, he hasn't got out of Scotland much.

In fact, even despite managing to kick his habit and begin a successful new life in London, by the end of the film he still hasn't worked out that other lives are available. (as many as the planet's population) His narration lists a bunch of choices, but he's putting them all in the one box.

It all makes for a movie which I found difficult to come to with much of an angle. I couldn't root for a bunch of crooks, other than for their restoration obviously, which they mostly weren't aiming for. Neither could I root for main character Renton to make a clean break, because he was narrating the whole tale in retrospect with such scorn for those outside of the drug scene, that I had to expect such hopes to come to nought.

Even the movie's tone - placing such stereotyped characters in stylized comic situations - was never going to offer enough realism for drama, and yet this film didn't seem to think that it was exactly a comedy either.

And yet the short sketches that pack out this movie do tell a bigger story quite clearly, most of the time. I couldn't figure out how Tommy had got the others all the way out into the country without telling them they were going hiking - what on Earth other reason is he supposed to have given them?

The sparing trip sequences are done well too, and I would much rather have watched an entire film in this hallucinogenic style, than to keep cutting back to long spells of bleak old real life again. The characters seem to have felt the same way. Maybe that was the point.

Ultimately Trainspotting seems to come down squarely against both of Renton's life alternatives. If it does have a message (and there's no reason why it has to), then I'm afraid I missed that stop.

Perhaps I should have listened to the guy explaining it at the start.

(available, legally I trust, here)

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