T2 Trainspotting: Time, regained
by Bénédicte Prot
- BERLIN 2017: Danny Boyle picks up the loose ends left over at the end of his 20-year-old cult film, in a sequel that questions the notion of a new beginning
With Trainspotting 20 years ago, besides a cult film that we watched and re-watched (and re-heard!) over the ten subsequent years at least, Danny Boyle left us with some question marks hanging over what the future held for Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor). After he ditched the heroin and betrayed his mates (with the exception of Spud) by scarpering with the cash, we would have been forgiven for asking ourselves if he had indeed "chosen life, chosen a job, chosen a family, chosen a fucking big television, etc" – not that, when you put it that way, the plan seemed much more attractive than continuing to paint the town red with his lifelong pals, notwithstanding addictions and a lack of future prospects.
And so when we see Renton touch down in Edinburgh at the start of T2 Trainspotting [+see also:
interview: Danny Boyle
film profile], screened out of competition at the 67th Berlinale, we are bound to fall instantly in love, especially since we instantly see Renton's face in that of McGregor, as if 20 years of lending his mug to a variety of different roles had been erased in an instant, restoring him to his first incarnation. And despite the fact that the Slovenian woman who hands him a leaflet on this city where he used to sow his wild oats puts on a Scottish accent, suggesting a shift towards more of a multicultural and dynamic metropolis, as might be expected, in fact nothing has changed here, but just grown older. The area of land in front of the increasingly run-down building where only his father lives has become a rubbish tip that is growing before his very eyes; Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still a junkie and still has a tendency to wallow in his own excretions; Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who has been banged up since Renton's departure, bristles with the same explosive violence that terrifies even his own lawyer; and last but not least, Simon "Sick Boy" (Jonny Lee Miller) runs his aunt's deserted pub and earns money for his new friend, cocaine, by blackmailing small-time bigwigs, whom he films in the company of his prostitute girlfriend (Anjela Nedyalkova). Obviously, they all tremble with rage whenever they think back to the time when Renton absconded.
Nevertheless, revenge is a dish best served cold, yet when Mark reappears, not so different himself, all (or almost all) of his friendships, and the dodgy dealings that go with them, pick up where they left off (incidentally, the story is interspersed with images from the first Trainspotting, as well as home videos where we see Mark and Simon as children), and things get fairly heated, to say the least. From the moment Renton steps foot in his old mate's bar, a non-stop barrage of adventures, high-speed chases and bust-ups ensues, boasting the same degree of wantonness as in the Irvine Welsh novel. This exuberance is occasionally tinged with nostalgia, but it cancels out all the bitterness as we observe that not one member of the gang has had, and will probably never have, the future he already expected not to have 20 years prior, and still none of them could give a toss about it, more or less: you don't have much time to think when you're legging it away from a furious Begbie.
Although Boyle said during a press conference at Berlin that he wanted to make a film that also works as a standalone movie, independently of the first Trainspotting (whose title he didn't manage to ditch completely, despite his pipe dreams of freeing himself of it), but although in T2 he toys with the social changes that have occurred in the last 20 years, such as new technologies and new trends in music, the sheer emotion of the reunion is too powerful for us to decide whether this truly is the case. It's just nice to choose to relive that same exhilaration from before, to choose to begin it all again, and to crank up the volume.
(Translated from French)
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