Of course, as most will attest, the olfactory highlight of the film is the infamous Worst Toilet In Scotland sequence. Appropriately enough, Chanel No. 5 gets a mention in the prelude to this most gag-inducing of scenes, just before Ewan McGregor’s Renton plunges deep into the murky bowl, hunting for a couple of suppositories. Cinema can be adept at conveying foul stenches, and this episode is a prime example of that ability. Thanks to McGregor’s stomach-churning performance, the crime-scene lighting and the use of imprisoning close ups, it’s hard not to feel that we’re in that toilet too, which is why the cut to a shot of clear, blue water comes as such relief.
Towards the end of the movie, it is smell which gives Renton a vital push. When Robert Carlyle’s Begbie blows a cloud of cigarette smoke straight into his face, he coughs and splutters and appears to come to some sort of resolution. The only way to get out of his current situation, his eyes seem to say, is literally to remove himself as far as away as possible from it. As long as he stays within reach of this constant, malodorous fog, he will remain a victim to it. No other solutions exist: there are some smells which no amount of wind, rain or time will ever wash away.
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