Today’s the day! Twenty years since Trainspotting the film premiered. Here’s the opening paragraph of my chapter on the film:
On February 23rd, 1996, Trainspotting the film was premiered. The speed of developments since the launch and that daring, insolent reading of the episode Traditional Sunday Breakfast at the Edinburgh Book Festival by Duncan McLean’s unknown sidekick Irvine Welsh a mere thirty months previously, was truly astonishing. The book was being translated into several languages and Trainspotting the play was filling theatres and making headlines. On that night in Glasgow the explosive Trainspotting phenomenon turned into a cultural and box-office fireball.
From the beginning the whole Trainspotting brand traded on insolence. I said in my talk last week that the audience at the Book Festival event in August 1993 was divided. Some were delighted that such crude, puerile slapstick had entered the very portals of the Edinburgh literary establishment. But probably a majority thought that this Welsh fellow would never see the inside of any book festival ever again.
Then came Harry Gibson and Ian Brown who, respectively, wrote and produced a version for the stage. Then came Danny Boyle, John Hodge and Andrew MacDonald. With a fine mix of apparent chaos and real insolence, the whole thing – particularly the film – became a colourful, intelligent, musical, political, assertive two-fingers to the prevailing establishment while still telling truths about the squalor of the heroin scene. Denouncements from on high only enhanced its transgressional status.
And has it lasted? Well, it can’t be moved from the status of being one of the most lucrative films of the 1990s. And in a professional psychiatrists’ journal it was pointed out that just as public perceptions of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) are dominated by And One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, so public perceptions of the heroin scene are dominated by Trainspotting. That’s quite a mark on history.
But there’s more, much more, to get out of the film. I’ll knock off this chapter and get the book out there.