Train Spotting

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Trainspotting presents an ostensible image of fractured society. The 1996 film opens, famously, with a series of postulated choices—variables, essentially, in the delineation of identity and opposition. Significant here is the tone in which these options are delivered—it might be considered the rhetorical voice of society, a playful exposition of the pressure placed on individuals to make the "correct" choices, to conform to expectation.

As such, the introduction might be read as contributing to the formation of two narrative constructs: that of "normality"—or at least that considered "normality" by prevailing ideology—and that of "subnormality," the remainder. In its uncompromising rejection of the former, the commentary of Ewan McGregor's Renton roots him thoroughly in the latter.

We see this division alluded to on a number of occasions. In the nightclub, for example, Renton quickly notices how the "successful" separate themselves from the "unsuccessful"—the former group embracing their newly-found partners and the latter nodding their heads sheepishly. "Success" is, however, more often linked with boredom and absurdity—with the easy life, with game-shows and bingo; "failure," despite its inherent misery and hardship, is shown to be exhilarating: a knife-edge. The tension inherent in this opposition is offered, arguably, as a reason for the behavioural patterns depicted; "what people forget is the sheer pleasure of it," as Renton confesses.

We might describe the group of friends, united by failure, as classic anti-heroes; as characters with whom we sympathise despite the horrors they commit. It is a reading underpinned by nihilism, and one can't help but recall the Zarathustrian "Table of Values" expounded by Nietzsche. The existence of different subcultures, defined by values which may completely contradict those of other groups, accords with a wider postmodern refutation of absolutes. These subcultures operate because the world around them is open to...
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