(Screenonline): Snow was Geoffrey Jones' first film for British Transport Films (BTF) but it owes its existence to a happy twist of fate. In September 1962 Jones began his research for a film about design for the British Railways Board. Armed with a 16mm camera, he travelled throughout the country, shooting film 'notes' of anything he found particularly interesting.
Viewing the footage, Jones was struck by several images of black steam trains churning down the tracks against a glaring white backdrop, and hit upon the idea of making a new, separate film contrasting the comfort of the passengers with the often Herculean efforts of the workmen to keep the trains going in hazardous conditions. On January 31st, 1963 Jones met with BTF head Edgar Anstey. Realising that the film would have to be made quickly or delayed until the following winter, Anstey agreed straightaway and shooting commenced the very next day. Jones and his barebones crew proceeded to chase winter conditions across the country.
Unable to afford his first choice of music, 'Teen Beat' by American Jazz musician Sandy Nelson, Jones had British musician Johnny Hawksworth re-record the tune, expanding it to twice its original length by reducing it to half its original speed at the start and steadily accelerating the tempo over a period of eight minutes to a speed approximately twice as fast as the original. Daphne Oram of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop added various filters.
Viewing Snow can be a hypnotic experience. Jones begins the film with a slow military throb, with the railway station and tracks all but buried beneath a mountain of snow and ice. The pace increases with the workmen's clearing of the tracks, and while the trains barrel through the snow-covered countryside, the music accelerates. The percussive editing between trains and environment reaches a joyous crescendo with a rapid succession of pounding snow, churning pistons, fields of livestock and the ever-present tracks, ending in a wild flourish of percussion.
Snow received at least 14 major awards upon its release, as well an Oscar nomination in 1965. It has been screened around the world and remains a favourite of fans of Geoffrey Jones' work and British Transport Films. Most importantly, this film marked the first full realisation of Jones' signature style, which he would expand upon and refine in subsequent films like Rail (1966), Trinidad and Tobago (1964) and Locomotion (1975).
This film may be viewed online at YouTube courtesy of the BFI:-