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Trainspotting Case Study

Rob Miller | Monday September 19, 2011

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS AS, FM2, Films & Case Studies, Non-Hollywood Films, Trainspotting

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  • Released in 1996
  • Directed by Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave)
  • Produced by Andrew Macdonald (DNA)
  • ProductionC4 (Film Four) & Polygram – budget £1.7m
  • Written by John Hodge from a novel by Irvine Welsh
  • Starring Ewan McGregor / Robert Carlyle
  • Distributed by Miramax (US) and Polygram

Trainspotting can be classified as an independent British film, produced by Film Four and distributed by the European distributor, Polygram Filmed Entertainment – Polygram were established in 1979 by the Dutch Music giant (Polygram, owned by Philips) in an attempt to compete with the oligopoly of Hollywood Film Distributors.

Trainspotting and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) were notable critical and commercial successes but in 1999 Polygram were bought by Universal Studios paving the way for notable UK/US Collaborations including Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Trainspotting also heralded a new generation of British ‘film stars’ as another way of attempting to compete with Hollywood including Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor who went on to appear in a number of UK/US Collaborations including A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach (both directed by the auteur Danny Boyle who works extensively with McGregor.

It is a hybrid genre of Social Realism and Comedy, maximising success for potential target audiences. In the first half of the film audiences are presented with the codes and conventions of the comedy genre, specifically through sharp dialogue and character representation but are presented with narrative disruption and a shift in tone in the middle of the film after the death of a baby due to neglect by its heroin addicted parents (no-one in fact is entirely sure who the father is).

Trainspotting blurs the boundaries of what was thought of as mainstream cinema – it could be thought of as ‘art-house’, independent of arguably a postmodern text but with significant mainstream entertainment values punctuated by a forceful, indie...


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