Trainspotting is a “depiction of the squalid depravities and exploitative self interest that characterizes the everyday life of heroin addiction (Petrie, 2004 p. 90).” The realistic style, use of language, and unflinching portrayal of drug use was what first attracted me to look at it a bit closer. Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, it tells the story of a group of working class unemployed drug addicts, focusing on their problems with heroin abuse, inability to get a job, and family problems. Set in Edinburgh in the early nineties, Danny Boyle's (Director) style is undoubtedly extremely realistic, fairly disgusting, and at times shocking. British realist films became popular in the late fifties. Realism was defined as “a determination to tackle 'real' social issues and experiences in a manner which matched a style which was honest and 'realistic' as well (Hill, 1986 p. 127).”
The new characteristics in Trainspotting, which I hadn't seen before, was how it attempted to show the positive side to heroin use. The protagonist, played by Ewan McGregor, says, “Take your best orgasm, multiply the feeling by twenty, and you're still miles off the pace. My dry, cracking bones are soothed and liquefied by my beautiful heroin's tender caresses. The earth moved, and it's still moving.” This accentuates the realism of the film and viewers may be horrified by the graphic portrayal of heroin addiction.
The director, Danny Boyle, opted for an “episodic, comedic, and at times surrealistic approach (Street, 1997 p. 110).” In a scene where one of the heroin addicts goes down the toilet to retrieve his heroine suppositories, the atmosphere dramatically changes as the scenery switches from nauseating bathroom to serene underwater world. “While this provides a degree of relief from being revolted by the realistic elements of the sequence, the sea diving fantasy nevertheless communicates the addict's desperate idea of the value of his search (Street, 1997 p.111).”