Time Loops Back On Itself (Even Without Heroin) In ‘T2 Trainspotting’
20 years ago, a low-budget film with a great soundtrack (Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Blur) became a huge hit. And then a lot of people ended up with a poster on their bedroom wall featuring an epically profane rant that began, “Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family …”
The film was, of course, Trainspotting, based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name. It’s set in Edinburgh, and it’s about a working class guy named Mark Renton and his mates — Spud, Begbie, Simon, and Tommy — who chose drugs, namely heroin, over the straight life. At the end of the film (spoiler alert), Renton betrays his friends and skips town with a stash of stolen money.
Now, he’s come back to Edinburgh for the first time, as sequel T2 Trainspotting gets the original cast back together. Director Danny Boyle and star Ewan McGregor, who played Renton, say they’d always wanted to do a sequel, but earlier efforts didn’t work out.
“If we were going to revive these guys, or reintroduce people to them, there would have to be a very good idea beyond the original film,” Boyle says. “And it’s this 20-year gap that did it for us, and when we started to work on this a couple of years ago, it became very personal, I think, for all of us, about male behavior over time. And a period of 20 years is an extraordinary kind of measuring point.”
McGregor on why Renton comes back to Edinburgh
He comes back in not a good frame of mind, that’s true. I think he had to find a way to get away from them, I think he had to find a way to find himself, he had to get away from his mates. Because everywhere he went, they kept following him around. He goes to London, and for a moment he enjoys a life — he’s an estate agent, he’s enjoying his life, and then suddenly Begbie’s there … he has to betray them in order to make sure that he gets away from them, maybe. Then once he’s been away from them for 20 years, well now he’s got to find his way back to them, in order to figure out who he is and what he’s going to do.
Boyle on what people should take from these two films — are we all just stuck in our pasts?
As an elder of these events, all I can do is — something that we do recommend in the film, which is one of the few compensations of aging — is the realization that time isn’t a straight line, actually that it loops. It’s one of the few consolations available, I have to warn everybody. It does begin to loop rather beautifully, and that was the idea of Spud’s character, who begins in a hopeless cycle of addiction and rehab and addiction and rehab, and as he finds his voice, really, towards the end of the film, and the film begins to loop back to the original book and the original film … it’s like an extended madeleine moment, you know, from Proust. The beauty of time. Because it can be terrifying, time, when you see its consequences — as you do with these actors, the same actors you remember in the first film but now you see what they’re like now.
There’s a beautiful thing that happens as well, which is they do find some kind of atonement, and it’s led, in a curious poetic way, by Spud beginning to say, “no, let’s find the value of the past as well, in our stories.”