Trainspotting sequel is pulling into Edinburgh
Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel, Danny Boyle’s 1996 film was an anarchic and rebellious modern classic, portraying the horror and hedonism of Edinburgh’s heroin underworld.
Its dark humour was wasted on some; this wasn’t a lifestyle guide, but it nevertheless appalled almost as many as it exhilarated.
But unlike other heroin tales of the time, such as Requiem For A Dream, Trainspotting had hope.
So where are the characters Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie – played by Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle – now?
They are 20 years older, but are they 20 years wiser?
Of course not – and so audiences will no doubt, in spite of their own better judgment, love them for their humanity, rather than judging for an utter lack of morality.
In T2, which is loosely based on another Irvine Welsh novel called Porno – the energy and frustrations of youth are now replaced with middle-aged reflection and regret.
To borrow a quote from T2 that strikes a chord with anyone over the age of 30: “We are all now tourists in our own youth.”
There’s no doubt the people who loved this in their teens and twenties will return to the cinema for memory’s sake, but this film is more than just a nostalgia trip.
Irvine Welsh’s social commentary and exploration of Scottish identity remain as pertinent today as they were 20 years ago.
As musician and writer Pat Kane points out, the politics is as important as the humour in Trainspotting.
“There’s a level of disappointment and gloom and lost opportunities that I think the last 20 years can be typified by that’s in a lot of people’s heads and hearts at the moment. I wonder whether Trainspotting will chime with that,” he said.
The overriding sense of alienation of a young generation is as relevant now, following the Brexit vote and Trump’s inauguration, as back then when Thatcherism was finished – but then there was optimism: a fresh start under New Labour.
Kane says Welsh was inspired by the harsh economic era – with old industries being swept away and a generation figuring out how to survive.
Tim Bell, a local historian who runs a Trainspotting Tour of the locations from the books and films, says the secret to Welsh and Boyle’s success is that Welsh’s stories are history – thinly veiled as fiction.
He claims Irvine Welsh’s books have “restored Leith’s identity for better or for worse”.
Bell adds: “Leith was being demolished – and if you’ve got gaps in your life, heroin will find the gaps and there were lots of gaps in the 60s and 70s.
“Trainspotting was a cloud burst of honesty about the heroin scene – intelligent compilation of counter-culture music… showing you can put serious juice alongside whacky stuff.
The premiere of T2 will be in Edinburgh tonight, and the film goes on general release on 27 January.