The National:

THERE are two sides to Trainspotting the movie, whose 25th anniversary we celebrate today (with a loud flush of The World’s Worst Toilet, of course).

One is deep-rooted in centuries of Scottish literary tradition. The other is wide, wide open to the future of the rest of this century, in all its terrors and thrills.

Looking back over the movie, it’s worth noting how well-spoken everyone is. The movie’s accents were redubbed for the US and global markets (Renton in particular sounds like a Charlotte Square investment manager).

So cinema-goers missed out on the vernacular energy of Welsh’s 1992 novel, which stood at the end of a decade of the second Scottish literary renaissance (Kelman, Leonard, Galloway, Gray and more). Which itself stood in the shadow of MacDiarmid and Burns.

The movie’s success gave strength, by association, to the Scottish Voice in literature and film. We can see Trainspotting’s legacy in the confidence of novels like Kirstin Innes’ Scabby Queen, and films like Kieran Hurley’s Beats. There’s no cringe about language or experience coming from street-level Scotland in any of these works.

Douglas Stewart’s Shuggie Bain won over US critics and the Booker Prize, and was partly written in tough Glasgow slang. That's another novel that wouldn’t have been possible without Trainspotting’s success, on paper and screen. Modern Scots literary culture owes Trainspotting a huge debt.

The other enduring element of Trainspotting the movie is the way it still taps into the fluctuating currents of modern times. Since 1996, we’ve come through New Labour, 9/11 and the Iraq War, the rise of the internet, a Scottish Parliament, the financial crash, rebellions against planetary extinction, and now the Covid pandemic.

And rather than the film’s famous “Choose Life” speech seeming out of date, it now appears as freshly subversive as ever – undermining any “New Normal” we might be yearning to go back to.

The National:

“Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family”, intones Renton. “Choose a f***ing big television, choose washing machines, cars … Choose DIY and wondering who the f*** you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f***ing junk food into your mouth…”

What Welsh and his skagboys were rejecting for the bliss of heroin, is the very status quo ante we are asked to yearn for, post-Covid. Trainspotting’s critique of the compromises of everyday life in late capitalism have lost none of their sharpness.

One thing that we hoped would be a consequence of Trainspotting’s success was a new-born Scottish film industry – studios, auteurs, superstars, all saying something beyond tartan myths and kailyard kitsch.

Well, we do have some studio space, and some more pending – but it’s currently filled with Brigadoonery like Outlander. Our city streets (until before lockdown) were crawling with international film crews. But they were using Glasgow or Edinburgh as neutral urban backdrops: the lower storeys of New York or San Francisco, at a cheaper rate.

Worse of all, what we don’t have is a post-Trainspotting film tradition. There are a few honourable exceptions – Under The Skin, Neds, the Angel’s Share, and of course film adaptations of Welsh’s own later novels like Filth and T2 (the Trainspotting sequel).

But where are the scores of movies that tear our perceptions and assumptions apart, the way Renton and co do?

As the Scottish-Irish film historian Mark Cousins recalled elsewhere this week, Trainspotting “reminded the industry that as well as being true or good, a film could be exciting”.

Of course, that original “excitement” has a context. Trainspotting was marketed as “the next Pulp Fiction” in the US; and the film was produced by Miramax (run by its own lord of excess, Harvey Weinstein). There was Tarantino-esque ambition from all involved – an ambition which is hardly unproblematic, in our awakened era.

But even as we crawl out of lockdown, we should hope there are writers and directors who want to lay bare our current delusions and myths, with as much energy and skill as Trainspotting did in 1996. Not so much Team Scotland, as Teem, Scotland.