The Uncanny in Trainspotting I am interested in analyzing the “repression” element of the term uncanny in the way it is used in the “cold turkey” scene of Trainspotting. Repression is the way in which one pushes a memory or feeling to the back of one’s mind, in the hope that it will never come about in one’s train of thought again. If it does however, it would create an uncomfortable and unnerving situation. Trainspotting revolves around characters that are aiming to repress life itself by shooting up heroin all hours of the day.
The “cold turkey” scene of this movie in particular is the most uncanny scene of all because it encompasses many of the thoughts and emotions that Renton, the main character, is trying to repress, but is forced to face. Paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and zombie babies are all a part of this timeless scene that truly leaves the viewer in an uneasy and ambivalent state of mind. Danny Boyle does not waste time easing the audience into Renton’s withdrawal symptoms, but rather throws them right into the scene.
From the second Renton is locked in his room, a feeling of uncanniness sweeps over the audience, for as awful as Renton may feel, the audience is left unsympathetic to the whole situation. Renton, as he states throughout the film, is a bad person, and the audience will never sympathize with the bad person. Therefore, as the scene progresses, there is a sense of cognitive dissonance between wanting to feel sorry for Renton, and feeling that he is getting what he deserves. The uncanniness of the scene continues as Renton’s bedroom comes into perspective.
It takes place in his childhood room which is covered in trains. It is uncanny that Renton is locked in a room like this, for it perfectly embodies the theme of the movie. The word “trainspotting” has many meanings, all of which can be applied to Renton’s life. First, it literally stands for one who spots trains and takes note of when it comes and goes, which therefore translates to an utterly useless life. It also refers to the track marks that are left in the veins after shooting up. Users typically shoot along one main vein, therefore adapting the term, “station to station,” to this action.
A child’s bedroom is typically a place of innocence and safety, however in Renton’s case, it is his doomed sarcophagus. His bed soon starts moving backwards, and the room starts elongating, as if to personify the notion that Renton is being pulled into limbo where he will be forced to face the reality of his oncoming hallucinations. What he soon starts seeing is rather uncanny, for he believes he is being visited by his family and friends, but in reality they are all figments of his imagination made up in his ongoing heroin derived/deprived mind.
In particular, he imagines his friend Diane singing the song “Temptation. ” It is coincidental that she is singing this song because it is about being enamored and drawn to certain people and situations, but having to cope with the reality that they or it will no longer be there. The crawling, dead baby is another vital character of Renton’s hallucination. Baby Dawn, whom Renton has repressed his feelings for since her poor demise, crawls across the room, stops right above Renton’s body, and stares lifelessly into his eyes.
The term uncanny is most brilliantly personified through this scene because this baby that was once familiar to Renton, is now altered, creepy, and morbid, creating immense uneasiness due to the uncertainty of her state of being. Danny Boyle masterfully articulates the horrors of withdrawals in the “cold turkey” scene of Trainspotting, which is why it is considered one of the greatest movies of all time. This was only achieved, however, through the presence of the uncanny, for it was the quintessential factor that made the scene that much more insightful and visceral.
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