Trainspotting (Film)

Trainspotting (Film) Imagery

"Worst toilet in Scotland"

In this vivid fantasy sequence, Renton dives into a toilet in search of his suppositories, swimming around in what turns out to be a clear lake. The imagery in this scene ties into the theme of biological decay as a product of heroin use. It gives the audience a feeling that waste and decay are encroaching on Renton’s life, despite his desire to cleanse himself of such waste, and of heroin. It is important that the waste in this scene is all external to Renton: once he evacuates his bowels, he is cleaned of the waste, which covers his surroundings but does not have a hold on his body. It's also notable that once he dives in to, the toilet turns out to be a clear lake, rather than a vast cesspool. Somehow Renton has the ability to get off squeaky clean where we would expect any normal person to be totally contaminated. Throughout the rest of the film, the ‘decay’ remains external to Renton, penetrating deeply into some of his friends, but not him—baby Dawn’s death affects everyone but only has a profoundly personal effect on Allison and Sick Boy, and Tommy contracts HIV (and then physically decays) after a short period of heroin use, though Renton is HIV-negative after years of needle sharing.

Thus, this fantasy sequence scene thus sets up several themes in the film: early on, in the toilet scene, it helps the audience sympathize with Renton as someone who is trying to fight back against the encroachment of negative external influences; later it incites the audience’s frustration with Renton, who negatively influences his friends while seeming to catch every break because of dumb luck and without moral justification.

Abbey Road album cover

As the four friends cross a street to the hotel to finalize their drug deal, the image recalls the cover of the Beatles album, Abbey Road. They walk single file, and at a given moment they are all in the street, mid-stride. In the Trainspotting version, Renton might be seen as the McCartney figure: he is the odd one out by not wearing a suit jacket, like McCartney is the odd one out by not wearing shoes. This implies Renton’s importance as a leader of the group (the way McCartney was a leader of the Beatles), at least according to the perspective of the film. It also may foreshadow Renton’s abandonment of his friends because, according to popular culture conspiracy theories, McCartney’s differences on the album cover hint that he died while recording the album. The Trainspotting version of the image is also inverted, as a reflection of their rejection or opposition to society.

Close-up of needle and blood

The close up of the needle as Renton injects his overdosing hit, which shows the blood flow back into the needle, is a graphic image that indicates the biological harm that heroin causes. The needle sucks the blood out of Renton’s arm, as if it is sucking the life out of him. This image foreshadows Renton’s overdose and brush with death, as well as the approaching problems with HIV among his friends. The transmission of blood through needles is how HIV was spread between junkies, and though Renton turns out to be HIV-negative, Tommy contracts HIV because of his heroin use.

Final bridge crossing

As Renton flees the hotel room with the bag of money at the end of the film, the imagery suggests that he will actually follow through on his decision to start over. We see him crossing the bridge, walking in a straight line: the crossing of a bridge indicates a new beginning, while the straight path a takes might represent his decision to go “straight,” which is another way of referring to sobriety. The way that he looks straight ahead, into the camera, indicates that he is ‘looking to the future.’ It also might indicate that he has learned to be more self-reflective, as the camera often shows images from his point of view as the narrator—if he is looking straight into the camera, he can also be considered to be looking straight into his own eyes.