In 1996 Trainspotting was the biggest thing in British culture. Brilliantly and aggressively marketed, it crossed into the mainstream despite being a black comedy set against the backdrop of heroin addiction in Edinburgh. Produced by Andrew Macdonald, scripted by John Hodge and directed by Danny Boyle, the team behind Shallow Grave (1994), Trainspotting was an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s barbed novel of the same title. The film is crucial for understanding British culture in the context of devolution and the rise of ‘Cool Britannia’.
Murray Smith unpicks the processes that led to Trainspotting
‘s enormous success. He isolates various factors – the film’s eclectic soundtrack, its depiction of Scottish identity, its attitude to deprivation, drugs and violence, its traffic with American cultural forms, its synthesis of realist and fantastic elements, and its complicated relationship to ‘heritage’ – that make Trainspotting
such a vivid document of its time. Although it heralded a false dawn for British film-making, Trainspotting
is, Smith concludes, both authentically vernacular and yet transnational in its influences and ambitions.
In his afterword to this new edition, Murray Smith reflects on the original film 25 years after its release, and its 2017 sequel T2: Trainspotting
also directed by Boyle. Smith also considers Danny Boyle’s subsequent directorial career, with highlights including Slumdog Millionaire
(2008) and the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.