View Full Version : Trainspotting and William Buroughs
04-30-2002, 08:53 PM
How does William Buroughs writing influence the movie trainspotting? Besides the obvious drug references. I think it has something to do with the plot and choosing an alternative form of life (i.e. society). I heard someone mention it recently and I found it very interesting. I am a big fan of Buroughs but I completely missed the correlation and would really like to know.
nelly the elephant
04-30-2002, 09:12 PM
You could always try reading the book rather than just comparing the movie. It's by Irvine walsh, and is called Trainspotting. There's a lot more detail about the characters and their environment to be found in it than in the movie.
04-30-2002, 10:42 PM
I've got a ton of WSB on my shelf and I've got to admit that I don't see anything beyond the most superficial similarities. It begins and ends with the subject-matter. Welsh's prose is his own, and his characters are their own. FWIW, Style-wise, he resembles Bukowski more than Burroughs.
Burroughs has so many "signature" techniques and such a striking metaphysical/pyschosexual tone that it's kind of puzzling that someone might consider a novel without these "Burroughs-sy" trappings to be influenced by him at all.
04-30-2002, 11:53 PM
all right, I'm sure the book offers more detail and I plan on reading it, yet my question specifically reffered to the movie
because burrough writtings has a cinematic effect or should I say cinema has a Bourroughs effect. The cut up method
of different visions and segments is definetly similar to the film of train spotting as is the junky becoming a symbol of
truth contasted against the perverted society agianst whihc he is contrasted. I was curious about specific similarities
between the writing and the film.
and by the way why is is called trainspotting
05-01-2002, 12:02 AM
I agree Larry, Though I havent read the book, the movie ( besides its basic content and directing) doesn't seem to be written in the style of Burroughs, have similar language, or techinques. I am a fan of Burroughs and was wondering if there was something more behind the cinematography or script that I was missing.
05-01-2002, 10:56 AM
in the novel there is a chapter entitled trainspotting at leith station - it's ironic, since the station in question is closed down, and there would be very little use in a trainspotter engaging in this activity here.
could this be a metaphor for the junkie lifestyle? living life at an empty station?
or maybe it is used to draw a similarity between the two activities. the characters in the novel (and movie) do not doing anything of importance in their lives: their junk habits are about as useful as logging the trains that go through a station.
i believe it's also drug-slang, but i'm not sure of the exact definition. the puncture marks on the arm are known as train tracks, or something. it's probably a nice fat piece of double-meaning/metaphor thing.
05-01-2002, 11:00 AM
Originally posted by gitfiddle
and by the way why is is called trainspotting
Trainspotting is a hobby activity that I believe exists only in the UK -- it involves, oddly enough, spotting trains. People go out to the railroad tracks and watch trains go by. They keep track of the different trains by writing down their numbers in notebooks. I have no idea why people do this. It seems boring and pointless. I believe Walsh's point is that heroin addiction is also boring and pointless.
05-01-2002, 11:04 AM
gitfiddle, have you seen David Cronenberg's adaptation of Burrough's work in Naked Lunch? Although the film's got a sort of hit-or-miss quality to it, I think it's worth perhaps comparing to Trainspotting, in terms of looking at a director's interpretation of a literary work. Also, I think that if you look at Trainspotting alongside some of Danny Boyle's other directing work (Shallow Grave, A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach, you may see more of a stylistic contribution to and appropriation of popular "drug movie" tropes.
AFAIK, "trainspotting" refers to the practice of hanging out in train stations keeping track of what trains go by, where they're going, and whether they're keeping to schedule. I unfortunately am having problems finding a dictionary definition to paste in, and implore someone to correct my definition and provide a better one.
05-01-2002, 11:06 AM
Great--I knew if I pottered around enough before posting someone would beat me to it. There are, however, several train references scattered throughout the film, if I'm not mistaken.
05-01-2002, 11:21 AM
Um...just in case anyone goes looking for this, it's Irvine WELSH.
Check out his latest, "Glue", told across the decades as a group of school mates grow up, and if you're a fan of the Burroughs method of writing, pick up "Filth" the anti hero is a Mysoginistic, racist , heavily addicted detective with a running commentary from the parasitic worm living in his intestines. Flat out great writing!
05-01-2002, 05:37 PM
gitfiddle, I'd have to agree that Burroughs writing technique is heavily influenced by cinematic forms - particularly non-linear, "experimental" cinema. Textual montage.
Have you heard much of his early tape experiments? Some of them are very interesting and far-sighted.
brondicon:gitfiddle, have you seen David Cronenberg's adaptation of Burrough's work in Naked Lunch? Although the film's got a sort of hit-or-miss quality to it, I think it's worth perhaps comparing to Trainspotting, in terms of looking at a director's interpretation of a literary work.
At the risk of being (correctly) identified as a pedant, I'm going to take this opportunity to jump up and down screaming "Cronenburg's Naked Lunch is not Naked Lunch!" Don't get me wrong, I love Cronenburg, and I love the movie, but it should have been called something else. Maybe just Burroughs or Bull Lee - there's almost none of the structure of Naked Lunch in it, and the odd "routine" that is from Naked Lunch is heavily outweighed by material from Burroughs' other books and biographical material.
And in the spirit of the "If you like Burroughs, you should read <blank>" hijack, I'd like to say that Will Self fills the Burroughs void for me. Paranoid, hallucinatory, sometimes trancendent. And funny as hell. "My Idea of Fun" and "The Sweet Smell of Pyschosis" are probably my favourites.
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