Here is the text of an sticle that appeared today in the Daily Telegraph in London.
Shekhar Kapur, director of Badit Queen, Elizabeth and Four Feathers, explains to Marc Lee why he could never have made Elizabeth had it not been for Trainspotting Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting and Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth are two of the most memorable British films of the Nineties, both shot with eye-catching verve, both featuring a riveting central performance. Yet, as cinematic experiences, they could hardly be more different: one drags us through the sordid lives of a bunch of drug-addled losers, the other sweeps us into the court of the Virgin Queen. Nevertheless, Kapur insists he could never have made his film had it not been for Trainspotting…….
Boyle’s adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel (Oscar-nominated screenplay by John Hodge) is the story of heroin user Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his similarly distracted gang of mates, living on the margins of society in Edinburgh. Renton tries to kick the habit early in the film but fails; later he heads for London and respectability, but even there he can’t escape his past.
However, the plot of Trainspotting is secondary to its unflinching depiction of lives made wonderful by drugs and simultaneously wrecked by them. It has a remarkable raw energy throughout, and while much of what happens is horrible, much of it is scabrously funny, too.
Among the most memorable sequences is Renton’s attempt to go cold turkey in which he nails planks over the door of his room, having stocked up with food supplies, a TV and a series of buckets for urine, faeces and vomit. Then there’s the appalling moment in which he is swallowed by “the worst toilet in Scotland” as he tries to retrieve a lost stash, and the scene that perfectly describes the ecstasy of a hit as his eyes roll back and he literally sinks through the floor.
So how does all this connect with the queenly life of the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn? Kapur begins by explaining how he came to direct Elizabeth. “I was sitting in a hotel in Los Angeles and [the producer] Tim Bevan came to me and said, ‘Would you make Elizabeth?’ And I thought what an adventurous idea, what an adventurous producer, because I had no knowledge of history. All I knew about her was that she was the Renaissance Queen, the Virgin Queen. I found myself saying yes just for the adventure of it. Then I thought better of it and called Tim and said, ‘Look, I’m in two minds. The costume drama is one of my least favourite film genres.’?”
However, Kapur had another change of heart the next day, telling Bevan there was only one British film he’d seen recently that really carried him away, and that was Trainspotting. Could he, Kapur asked, take the Trainspotting approach to a costume drama? The answer was yes. “And so I did. Trainspotting freed me up from the strictures of Western cinema. I found it an incredibly liberating film. It was a film that lived on the edge of the current grammar of filmmaking – and then broke through.
“It wasn’t that I tried to emulate anything in Trainspotting. It just helped me break this anxiety I had that I was coming from India, I’d never shot a film overseas before, and I’d have to confine myself to what a British film should be.
“Once I got into shooting it, my filmmaking roots kicked in – the colours, the non-fear of melodrama. Trainspotting is a very melodramatic film, but that synchs perfectly with the lives of these people.”
That melodrama is matched by the surreal imagery Boyle employs. One unsettling scene has a baby crawling on the ceiling. “That was horrific, but it was hypnotic. You are repulsed by it, but you never disconnect from it. It never stopped being cinematic.”
This kind of filmmaking, says Kapur, has a Dali-esque quality. “It touches on something mythic, something in your subconscious.”
What did he make of the controversy surrounding the film? “I don’t think it was pro-drugs. It was a brilliant insight into the lives of people who take drugs. It wasn’t moralistic, but I don’t think anybody could have watched it and thought, ‘Great – that’s what I want to do.’ Quite the contrary.
“Trainspotting is one of those films – Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is another – that we can look back on now and realise just how challenging it was dramatically. They’re both films that come from completely brilliant minds.”
# ‘Bandit Queen’, Shekhar Kapur’s film about the Indian folk hero Phoolan Devi, is out now on DVD.