At the Movies: Trainspotting (1996)

by Meg Sklut ’18

Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle, is an incredible film featuring an eclectic, remarkable soundtrack. According to Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, it is “a singular sensation, a visionary knockout spiked with insight, wild invention and outrageous wit.” The film follows Scottish heroin junkies living lives of dirt, spontaneity, and sex in the late 80s. The characters have an intense desire for pleasure, which they receive through a spike of a needle. The soundtrack, which mirrors both the ecstasy of drugs and the withdrawal and pain of drugs, is rich with 80s techno and synthpop, in addition to oldies tunes and less contemporary punk music. Here are some songs that truly represent Trainspotting’s glory as a film:

Lust for Life – Iggy Pop

Right from the start, Trainspotting examines how much one can truly experience life while under the influence of heroin. “Lust for Life,” the very first song of the film, relates to this message and opens the film with a bang. The opening drumbeat especially creates an exciting intensity. While this relentless drumbeat plays, the main character Renton (played by Ewan McGregor in one of his first major film roles) runs from the police, and his voiceover explains all the things he should have chosen instead of heroin. “Lust for Life” both agrees with Renton and contradicts the choices Renton makes.

Atomic – Blondie

As Renton looks for love at a club, Blondie’s hit “Atomic” plays. The song combines different genres, including disco and new wave rock. It exudes lust and temptation and echoes the grimy club scene of the late 80s.

Perfect Day – Lou Reed

Lou Reed’s romantic “Perfect Day” is allegedly about his relationship with heroin, a claim furthered in Trainspotting. The film takes many songs and inverts the meaning, so as “Perfect Day” plays, a character overdoses. This contradiction exposes the irony of pairing happy terms with drug usage and explores how drug usage can be inverted.

Born Slippy – Underworld

By British electronica group Underworld, “Born Slippy” finishes the film in a similar way to how it started. The song starts off a little slowly, but soon the rhythm increases, and it ends the film in an upbeat way. Renton narrates over the quick beat of the song and the audience becomes aware of the cyclical nature of the film.

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