T2 and Choosing Nostalgia – by Lucy Watson
As I walked out of Westgarth cinema two weekends ago, having just seen T2 Trainspotting for the first time, I felt that great rush; when you see something that gets under your skin, and makes you feel that odd, longing sensation somewhere between your heart and your stomach. The one that only certain cinema gives you. A longing to be watching it all again, draping yourself in the emotions it evokes. The scenes play over in your head. You want to talk about the movie to anyone, everyone. And you do. The girl in the vintage shop on the way home. The random guy at the bar when you order a drink later that night.
And then over the next two weeks, it stays with you. You watch interviews, and online videos, read reviews. You want to keep feeling that feeling, finding that rush again. And with T2 it was all very strange, because I had felt all this once before. Back in 1996. When I was seventeen. The first time.
For a film about nostalgia, T2 does a very strange and powerful thing. It uses the nostalgia, like a drug. It weaves the nostalgia into the film masterfully; a hit here, a puff there. Never too much. Just enough. It utilises nostalgia in a way that no film yet has managed to. It doesn’t exploit it, it harnesses it. In a world full of remakes and sequels, this is so much more. While the first film was a tribute to the book, the second film is a tribute to the first film. It is not a cash in, or a rehash. It takes those flawed, beloved characters and asks the honest questions – where would they be now, and how would they feel? And of course they would feel nostalgic. I feel nostalgia every day; vignettes of my life drifting past me. Memories of people and places. Emotions warring with one another in a constant rotation – regret, sadness, pride, joy, melancholy, longing. Missing old friends, perfect moments, the cities I loved, the sunrise after an epic night.
Because if you think about it, like love, nostalgia is a drug, and it is one that has been spread around liberally in the past few years. All the 90s kids trying to recapture that feeling again, when they were young, and cool, and the music they loved – we loved – was everything. Trainspotting, the first one, captured this feeling. This time. It was the epitome of it. The Adidas trainers, the grunge culture, the cool Britannia. It brought it all together with a soundtrack so iconic that you can never hear those songs without thinking of the film.
And now, T2 comes along, and weaves itself through the fabric of the first. Pricking the past with the needle of nostalgia, until the memories of that time bleed through you again. Standing at the Falls Festival, watching Iggy Pop, waiting for Lust For Life, and the boy with the peroxide blonde hair to kiss me. Wearing my burgundy Adidas trainers, hanging around the Domain Gardens at night with my friends, the mist of the cold Melbourne winter on my breath. Watching Blur at The Palace, and forever regretting talking to those boys up the back and not going up the front to dance. All the memories of the intervening years come rushing back too, until the wave of nostalgia nearly drowns you. You can never go back. But you can never truly let go either.
This past weekend I saw T2 again. I rewatched Trainspotting. Then I found myself watching old Jonny Lee Miller films, one after another. I want to keep feeling it. The warmth in my heart. The rush. I don’t want the wave to recede. Because what then? What comes after nostalgia? What happens when our 90s world is no longer retro? Is that when it is truly over?
In T2, when Renton and Simon (Sick Boy) sit on the couch together, friends once more, it is like all of our old friendships are reconciled – the wounds of the past healed. The wrongs we’ve done, or had done to us, forgiven. Or perhaps not. Perhaps we just conveniently forget the past because it hurts too much. And we selectively remember the good times. The times we danced, and laughed, and thought we had forever to get it together. When we thought we would always be friends, that we would achieve all we wanted in life. The echoes of that naive hope rings in our ears, and creates that feeling. The one somewhere between your heart and the pit of your stomach. The beautiful sadness. The bittersweet melancholy. The aching joy that only love, music, nostalgia and really good cinema can give you.