There’s no doubt that Trainspotting the film is about heroin. It shapes the narrative and the structure, and the film pretty well earns the alternative title of ‘A Junkie’s Progress’. De-personalising the issues, it goes like this: heroin is seductive and dangerous, and anti-social behaviour is part of the scene; there comes a time when the dangers and downsides can’t be avoided and it’s worth making an effort to stop using; if you are lucky enough to survive and avoid prison, conventional life, which is so scornfully rejected at the beginning of the film, looks a lot better than heroin.
But is Heroin treated as a character in the film? There are two musical moments when it sure looks like it. Bizet’s Carmen – Habanera plays while Renton makes his first attempts to stop using. That great seductress, Carmen, seems to mock and undermine his efforts: ‘You don’t love me, maybe, but I love you…’, his feet disappearing down the toilet bowl to the last chord. For ‘Carmen’ read ‘Heroin’. And the Big H seems to be a character as Lou Reed’s Perfect Day reassures Renton that oblivion is his perfect day. On the screen we see a young man in a dangerous overdose, but the music ignores that and follows his mood. As he is waking up and coming round there is the four-times repeated warning that he shall reap just what he sows. Heroin the heroine? Or the anti-heroine?