Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
This is Shell (1970)

Courtesy of Shell International

Main image of This is Shell (1970)
35mm film, 8 minutes, colour
DirectorGeoffrey Jones
Production CompanyGeoffrey Jones Films
SponsorShell International
EditorGeoffrey Jones
MusicDonald Fraser

An impressionistic look at the world of Shell and its activities.

Show full synopsis

This is Shell (1970) marks one of director Geoffrey Jones' most impressive achievements, ranking alongside his revered British Transport Films titles Snow (1960), Rail (1967) and Locomotion (1975). With all of these films, Jones dispenses completely with words, letting his unique marriage of image and music provide the commentary.

According to Jones, the assignment for This is Shell was to show, quite literally, everything Shell did, and how all these processes from around the world would benefit the consumer. This was no small task, but Jones met the challenge by breaking the film into a series of movements, pairing each of these film sequences with its own signature musical accompaniment.

This is Shell begins with the throbbing pulse of churning machines and the sound of tribal drums. Oil tanks and tubing are cut to the clacking of reel-to-reel machines, the tempo increasing with aerial shots of the zig-zagging oil pipe's journey through the jungle. An optical wipe introduces the second section, also accompanied by drums but this time at a beating-heart tempo. A massive oil drill is plunged deeply into the sea, with men on tankers working furiously to maintain control. The third section is accompanied by a simple but melancholy guitar strumming, while aerial shots reveal the awesome power of these oil plants as the camera circles them from a great height. The fourth and final section moves from the massive to the miniature, as scientists and technicians use these natural resources to make Shell products for the world we live in. Skyline views of New York and London are paired with quick shots of cars, trains, planes, even a Concorde. The film ends with the simplest and most familiar way Shell is represented to us all, the petrol tank.

James White

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Geoffrey Jones: The Rhythm of Film'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (7:03)
Shell Spirit (1963)
Shellarama (1965)
Jones, Geoffrey (1931-2005)
Shell Film Unit (1934-)