Trainspotting (Film)

Trainspotting (Film) Essay Questions

  1. 1

    "Trainspotting is a bad influence on teenagers; it completely glamorises and condones drugs use." Assess the validity of this view.

    Although Danny Boyle associates drug use with rock n roll and pop culture, and creates a sympathetic and identifiable character in Renton, a full reading of the film makes it clear that he is not promoting Renton’s lifestyle by any means. Boyle illustrates a number of negative effects that drugs have on individuals, in frightening and graphic images; the death of Baby Dawn at the hands of her mother’s addiction and Renton’s nightmare withdrawal sequence are enough to make any audience member terrified of heroin. Boyle does, however, offer a nuanced and complex view of addiction—he does not simply say “drugs and the people who use them are all bad,” in the film. He offers an understanding of the things that might drive addiction, the struggles that cause people to turn to drugs, and helps the audience develop a sense of sympathy with and understanding of Renton’s choices.

  2. 2

    Sick Boy claims that in life there are "no friends, just associates." What does this show about the life and mindframe of an addict?

    Sick Boy is presented as a borderline sociopath; he has little care for anyone but himself. Many of his views, therefore, do not represent the mindframe of addicts in general, but rather the mindframe of someone with his particular problems. However, the way that Renton becomes more like Sick Boy when he is on drugs suggests that addiction might draw a person closer to Sick Boy’s personality type: nothing matters but the addict’s own needs, nothing is real to him except the sense of euphoria from the drugs, and it becomes impossible to form real relationships.

  3. 3

    Is Renton’s narration omniscient? That is, can we take his analysis of his own behaviors and choices at face value throughout the film?

    In his narration, Renton analyzes his own behaviors and choices, as well as the internal drives of many of his friends. Many of these assertions are spot on, especially with regard to his friends. When it comes to his own motivations and emotions, however, Renton is often either dishonest or ignorant—he often mischaracterizes his reasons for drug use, based on how he wants the audience to see him. At the opening of the film, for example, he asserts that he has “no reasons” for choosing heroin, when he has just presented a very clear reason: the desire to isolate himself from society. From this narration we do develop an understanding of how Renton wants to portray himself, which helps with his characterization, but it is far from an objective presentation of facts that we would get from a truly omniscient narrator.

  4. 4

    What is the significance of Renton’s assertion, “I am a bad person,” at the end of the film?

    The final scene of the film indicates that Renton has grown in many ways and may make a positive change in his life. Though he still has problems (he still seems to be quite selfish), he demonstrates a greater ability for personal reflection. We see this heightened self-awareness slowly develop over the course of the movie; for example, Renton acknowledges a link between depression and his drug use after the nightmare sequence, and seems to reflect internally on his culpability in Tommy’s downfall when he visits Tommy for the last time. The final statement that he is a bad person is a culmination of this greater ability to reflect and take responsibility for his actions, which is an important first step toward improving his character.

  5. 5

    What effect does Begbie’s violence have on the audience’s opinion of the other characters, and Renton in particular?

    Begbie can be considered a foil to Renton in that his character points out Renton’s comparative lack of harm to the greater society. Though it does not excuse Renton’s—or Spud and Sick Boy’s—various trespasses, Begbie’s senseless violence leads the audience to question what it considers to be truly harmful criminality. Begbie’s violence also enables Renton (and through Renton’s eyes, the audience) to dismiss Begbie’s criticism of his friends’ drug use. A non-addict, Begbie becomes the most despicable character in the film, which gives the audience a sense of appreciation for Renton’s non-violent demeanor, and enables us to see him as the “good” character to Begbie’s “evil” character, though the evaluations are only relative. It also indicates that many of Renton’s problems come from the negative influence of his friends, which relieves him of some culpability for his actions.