Some people climb rocks, some people smoke them, and some people have no hobbies or interests at all. The countless personal interests of yesteryear have largely died off as a generation’s attention span has been decimated by electronic devices and a need-it-now mentality. (For an idea of how people’s attention spans have sharply declined, compare the pacing of an episode of Thunderbirds with an episode of the apocalyptically shit reboot.)
Among my many interests, such as the fish-and-chip paper used by different towns of the North East, the evolution of the shoelace and visiting every motorway service station in Britain, one pastime stands tall: the study of railways.
Imagine my sheer joy, then, when I discovered the existence of a film actually titled Trainspotting.
This discovery came via an announcement from my underpaid college tutor, to the class, that this was our latest film to be examined. For we were indeed a Media class: any sniggering insinuations that we just sat around watching movies can be swiftly nixed by the admission that we always sat on very, very sharp spikes.
Upon hearing the film’s title, the class were pleased for me. Representation at last!
All rapturous joy swiftly faded, however, when I discovered that there were no actual trains, railways or trainspotting for the absolute majority of the film.
I was told that the title of the film is supposed to be metaphorical: that the characters involved are actually heroin-injecting losers who are pathetically addicted to their favourite activity. Nothing like actual trainspotters, then.
But, watching the film, it becomes clear that it is cleverly doubly metaphorical. They actually are drug addicts, but really trainspotters. The foremost clue as to this fact is the title. Trainspotting. Get it?
The film portrays many aspects of trainspotting life far too accurately for this double-metaphor to not be true. For example, here is a typical well-attended gathering of under-40’s railway enthusiasts:
Pictured: record numbers.
…as well as typical trainspotter pursuits, such as camping out at airports and dealing with their sworn enemies, the aviation enthusiasts:
“They’re planes, for Christ’s sake. They all look the bloody same”
There is also a heartwarming scene of another favourite trainspotter’s activity: communal piss-drinking.
“The overriding flavour, gentlemen, is coincidentally that of my last beverage, which also happens to be piss.”
To forget his troubles, one of the kilted bastards takes his cretinous band of shivering miscreants to a deserted highland, proclaiming the greatness of the out-of-doors.
Pictured: valiantly searching someone else who likes trains.
It is here that the film gives clues as to why it is so coveted: the presence of AN ACTUAL TRAIN! And not just any train, a fixed-formation Class 156 ‘Sprinter’ Diesel Multiple Unit is what carries the Scots to their grassy destination.
The shock of an actual train made me drop the dog shit I was about to mail to Danny Boyle’s house.
The ‘now what?’ refers to the sense of loss and boredom felt between train sightings.
Armed by the surety in the fact that Trainspotting is cunningly metaphorical about trainspotting, I deduced that Ewan McGregor’s self-hating tirade is actually about being a railway enthusiast, not being Scottish.
“It’s SHITE being into trains! We’re the lowest of the low!”
Although not as low as autograph hunters, according to Ricky Gervais.
“These people really are the Epsilon Minor of society – even trainspotters look down on autograph hunters.”
“Some people hate autograph hunters, but I don’t. They’re just wankers!”
The blonde one sees what a fun time can be had trainspotting, as demonstrated by his mate –
It’s just as well his hands are out of shot. That’s not his leg, either.
– and decides he wants to join in the fun.
“I want to try it, Mark. You’re always going on about how hanging out the window of a speeding train is better than sex.”
“It depends which part of you actually hangs ou’ tha window.”
“Pardon me, I’m an aviation enthusiast and I couldn’t help but notice you’re all having a nice glass of piss.”
Robert Carlyle gets so angry at the inept plane-spotter, he goes blurry.
The film deftly illustrates the lengths spotters will go to in order to achieve satisfaction. Craving a greater fix than ever before, the protagonist finds a way over the wall into his local railway depot…
…only to get caught and face the long face of the law.
“An interest in trains is perfectly normal, Mr. Renton, but what you did inside the depot can’t yet be described in any language.”
Having narrowly escaped prison, his ghost-of-the-70’s mate has wise words for him and his addiction.
“Cut that shit out forever…and stick to healthy stuff, like tobacco, alcohol and questionable jewellery.”
Er….then he does it again. He nearly dies this time and his parents take control. It’s like he’s addicted or something.
“Thank god those toxic chemicals didn’t kill you. Cigarette?”
Having gone weak-kneed at the sight of a train on the way home – one he hadn’t seen before – the main idiot has to be carried to his bedroom to recover.
With some bitchin’ wallpaper, no less.
The effects of being kept away from trains for over 45 minutes is deftly illustrated.
Not even Dale Winton’s powers of extreme cameo can save him from torment.
“Starter for ten: what does standing in the cold for eight hours to see just one train make you?”
“…a MASSIVE SADDO!”
It’s over 24 hours since Mark Renton last saw a train, and his family try to coax him out of his addiction by taking him to a bus-spotter convention.
His only solace is found in roughly 17 pints of bitter. Bitter piss.
Mark Renton then moves to London, into a bedsit so cramped he has to sleep like something resembling a Karma Sutra reject:
A position easily achievable for regular CrossCountry Trains travellers.
Watching Trainspotting is a frustrating experience for an actual trainspotter, as one is forced to delve into second-guessing and metaphor-hunting to find any real meaning.
Apparently a sequel is on the way. Trainspitting? Brainspotting? Either way, hopefully director Danny Boyle will think to include many, many more trains this time. I gather the film was something of a flop, with no real impact on popular culture. Adding more trains will absolutely change that.
If the sequel can’t rescue his credibility as a film-maker, Boyle will surely fall short of the creative heights scaled by his siblings, Susan and Frankie.
He may even have to revert to his Sean Locke comedian alter-ego: