First Analysis of Social Realism

Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, 1996

Narrative Context

The opening  begins with two men running from another two men, presumably security

Renton and Spud are shown to be running from the security guards

guards. From beneath their jackets falls DVD’s and CD’s. Then one of the men gets hit buy a car whilst he is running and we are introduced to who he is. It then cuts to the same man smoking drugs at a flat. When the voiceover says “friends” it cuts to a group of people playing football and the audience is introduced to the rest of the main characters.

Enigma Codes

Various enigma codes are evident in the opening, such as

  • The voice over suggests the man running has all the right ideas, so why is he stealing?
  • When introduced to Renton, why are his eyes shadowed and painful looking?
  • Why is Renton laughing when he has clearly been hurt when hit by the car?
  • Why is Renton so bitter towards the life he is talking about in the voiceover?

Characters’ Establishment and Representation

Throughout the voiceover in the opening, the character Renton uses foul language, which suggests a more common character, as does his tatty clothes and the fact that he is stealing. Immediately he is portrayed as someone with not a lot of money and that participates in petty crime, someone possibly of the lower class.


The beginning of the opening is situated in a bust high street, with many factory buildings in the background showing an industrial area. We know, due to the accent, that Trainspotting is set in Glasgow, which is an industrial city. A lot of grimy back alleys are also shown in this beginning, and this theme is continued later when the flat in which they live is shown. It has peeling wallpaper, next to no furniture and demonstrates a complete lack of money and of the inhabitants caring how they lived. It is stingy, grimy and not looked after.

Editing Techniques and their effects

The quick succession of close up shots at the start makes the opening fast paced and exciting. Because they are mostly close ups, and very quickly edited it speeds up the audiences heartbeat and gets them excited to watch the rest of the film. The editing where the action stops to introduce the characters, and freezes on them, means that they audience can see who they are better and can understand a little about them as they see how they are dressed and how they are acting clearly. If the introductions were done as the action was still occurring then who the characters are would not be clear. The next notable editing is when the frame cuts between Renton being knocked over by the football and passing out because of the drugs. This shows that the two have the same effect and demonstrates his past times. The shots are done as such so that the similarity is shown.

Camera Techniques and their effetcs

The very first shot of the opening is a close up of running feet, which immediately evokes the idea of excitement, and the audience isn’t really aware of what is going on. The next shot is of the main character, and we know this because he is the only person in frame and it is a close up of him. Because it is a close up the audience can share his emotions and feel the excitement that he is. Later in the opening, the shots are all close ups of when Renton gets hit by the car, and the audience is completely disorientated and unaware of what’s happening as they can’t quite make it out. It also shocks the audience when they relaise what has happened. There is then a long shot which establishes the surroundings and shows the industrial area, and the audience can see the contrast between the tattily dressed criminals and the smartly dressed security guards. As the opening ends, there is an establishing shot of their flat, which shows how they live and in what condition. It pans around the location before zooming in on the action.

Use of Sound

The opening includes very fast paced music which makes it exciting and intensifying. The voiceover includes the audience in the action whilst also describing the overview of the film. As the voiceover continues the character begins to swear more and say it more bitterly. This shows his anger about what he is saying.


The act of the two characters being chased suggests they are criminals, and the fact that it was DVDs they stole implies they are desperate for money and will steal the smallest of things to make some easy money. Later, the baby is left alone in the flat, which implies incapable parents that are neglective.

Genre Characteristics

The opening uses many of the social realism conventions. The locations are all typically grimy and the main location is a stingy flat, as used in many other films of this type. Drug use is the main theme in the opening and petty crime is another, both common in many social realist films.

The Font, Colour and Positioning of Titles

The production company’s name is the first title seen and is a simple, block font, white in colour against a black background, centred in the middle of the screen. The next titles are of the characters names and are to either the bottom left or right of the screen, to display as much action as possible.

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