Trainspotting: A Movie About Isolation

Isolation as a Justification for Self Destruction

Click here for 'Trainspotting: An Assessment'.

But does the colonization of Scotland justify Mark Renton’s behavior in indulging in a drug habit? According to psychotherapist, Paul Fedorowicz, in order to feel tolerated by the society individuals who feel socially ostracized will feel like they are forced to wear a fake persona or a front. But it is the lack of these personalities and not their presence that lead to antisocial behavior and psychological issues.

In Mark Renton’s case, he did not possess a wide variety of false personae when he was young, and so when he faced multiple social disappointments he started to see the class distinction in the society. He then decided to put on the mask to fit in order to fit in his lower class environment.  In the movie, he takes up the mask of an ambitionless druggy, in order to protect his intelligence and child-like innocence. The only problem with this coping method is that Mike gets so engrossed in his fake personality that he forgets his real one. He therefore develops another front, while he tries to develop another personality.  This secondary mask only yields a sense of insecurity and reinforces hiss social rejection and isolation.  This is signified by his attempt to quit drugs, but only later to return to it when faced by societal pressure.

The Isolation that Addiction Brings

The film clearly shows the effects of living a drug addict’s life. We are continuously exposed to the illusionary and filthy lifestyle drug addicts subject themselves to. For example, we see the drug dealer being injected with heroin in the only good vein he has in his body, he’s penis. We also see Tommy move from slight poverty, to absolute destitution once he is fully addicted, wasting away and eventually dies from AIDS. Mike Renton feels trapped in his experience of life. He is constantly reminded of the perils of a drug addict’s lifestyle but still at the same time cannot stand the mediocre lifestyle of the society, when he is sober. Therefore, the only way he can escape it is by taking drugs. 

There is wisdom in Renton’s opinion about his heritage and how the society works. There is a natural dysfunction that follows a dysfunctional history. It is, however, unreasonable to think that Renton’s opinion on the heritage of the Scottish to be a sweeping generalization of what all Scottish feel towards themselves. Mark has very little self esteem, despite his obvious intelligence and motivation to do better in life, which would explain why he is consistently dropping in and out of his drug habit throughout the movie. Even worse, he has a general antagonist attitude towards most of the things in his life, he does not feel welcome in his own family circle, he does not approve of the behavior of most of his friends and he is also does not approve what he does with his own life either. If the character was able to boost his sense of self esteem and rise above the negative circumstances about his life, he may be able to rationalize the situation differently and see the consequences of his own sense of depravation.


It is admirable how Trainspotting was able to portray a personal psychological battle of isolation through a large social context. It does so by showing how addicts, or other pervert people for that matter, see the lack of beauty that mainstream society has, the death in routine, the lack of creativity on normal things. Then, it provides another layer by touching on the history of Scotland as a satirical background. This attack on the very essence of the Scottish race makes the whole struggle more valid.

It does a good job in exploring the psychosis found on both the mainstream society or on those that are deemed normal by those who are deemed abnormal. The movie successfully explained that isolation, discontent, disdain and loneliness may persist regardless of one’s condition. The only way out of it is a firm decision to be not be isolated, be content and happy regardless of standards, regardless of norms.

Renton’s vigor for life is shown in those sections of the movie when he is off drugs and begins to interact with other members of society, beyond his circle of drug addled friends. This ability to function with the rest of normal world, however, does not erase Renton’s feeling that inequality persists and that this inequality pushes people to feel isolated. In an effort to numb those feelings, he chooses the life of a drug addict. Those feelings are reiterated in the film when they go for an outdoor excursion, at which point Mark looks almost sick or uncomfortable for being out there. This confusing and sick cycle clearly explains why people find living a normal and straight life too hard.

Renton’s continuous disdain towards his own race serves as a deeper but more detached context of his hatred. There is a prevailing belief that Scottish’s tradition and culture has also been lost, due to past oppressive legislation which deterred their culture and traditional language, from passing on from one generation to the next. These factors have left some Scottish people devoid of a sense of national pride and patriotism.

Mark Renton’s statements about being a Scottish and about the pain for being a part of a normal world clearly encapsulate what the movie is all about – it’s all about what is within you. The race one is born into and the society that one is forced to live into is too big for any one person to be controlled. Living a decent life will never assure you that you will not feel isolated but living a dysfunctional life will not save you from the feeling of isolation either. All you can really control is how you feel about your life.

Click here for 'Trainspotting: An Assessment'.

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