Trainspotting is an extraordinarily well crafted film in terms of the various elements of film technique- lighting, sound, acting, screenplay, dialogue, color, composition, camera and editing.
The theme is fresh. Youth is a stage that is fraught with danger in testing the waters, and rites of passage, a stage that in modern western culture has no prearranged stage or ceremony.
Neither are there role models nor family. The parents are out to lunch although they do their best- who doesn't? Volatile, sensitive Youth is for all practical purposes alone, dangerously alone, with no boundaries or self-control. Renton, our hero, does heroin. His unsavory pal does liquor and people. Self-afflicted damage vs damage to others is an under current theme of Trainspotting. Money is everywhere, as are drugs, those of discontent housewives, and those found in bars, as well as illegal ones. Self-medication is rampant, stylized (not glorified) in the film.
Brilliant color schemes and set design hark back to Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange yet add something new and different. Neglect of youth is generational and a threat to young life and society. Theme is brilliantly expressed via the superb acting of Ewan MacGregor and all the others. Nothing is left to chance, no detail too unimportant to convey, in the brilliant directing work of Danny Boyle.
The editing conveys the restless pace of angst-ridden young heroin addicts, along with the brilliantly selected score by Bowie and Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, among others. In the opening scene alone, all the elements of film work together to present theme and introduce characters: Renton colliding with a moving car, grinning with bold mischief when he realizes he has triumphed over death; Sick Boy and Alison swooning with ectasy when they shoot up, the gaudily colored set vs the reality of the shabby drug house and neglected baby of young parents who are too busy trying to escape from reality to care for the one they love the most.
All is incredibly and expertly choreographed to Bowie's and Iggy Pop's title track. Even the voice-over narration by Renton works remarkably well, a feat in and of itself, given the sorry track record of most film narrations. This is a tragic story, and far from "glorifies" hard drug abuse. It is also rich with blackly humorous dialogue, acting and camera work- the "worst bathroom in Scotland "scene, for instance. The film is visually stunning, poetically inspiring and meticulously directed. And it raises a few more questions about the values of society than it answers, which is what any decent work of art should do.