Tag Archives: Keith John Adams


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DIRECTED BY: Keith John Adams

FEATURING: Ferdy Roberts, Victoria Moseley, Jun Noh, Gemma Saunders, Alice Margaroli, voice of Éva Magyar

PLOT: An insomniac widower spends the night toting around an on-the-run telepathic jellyfish creature.

Still from Ozma (2023)

COMMENTS: Jeff attributes his only slightly startled reaction to finding telepathic jellyfish Ozma abandoned in his garden to having been “well rehearsed” to accept strangeness through a lifetime of dreaming. If this film had been merely about that telepathic blob with the blinking lights and nothing else, he would have needed less rehearsal. But Ozma is entirely built on dream logic. There’s the pair of squabbling pursuers disguised as cops who use vegetables as truncheons. A woman who illustrates the story of the journey of Cleopatra’s Needle from Alexandria to London through very crude cutout animation. Rifles whose bullets have effects far from what we expect. And that’s not to mention the tiny touches, like Jeff’s unusually large bed.

And there’s one more weird thing. When Jeff begins his opening narration, he’s lying in bed, complaining of insomnia. A walking bass line accompanies his fretting, soon joined by the complaints of a muted trombone. It’s an effective accompaniment, but more noteworthy is the fact that we can see the bassist and trombonist, apparently vamping right there in Jeff’s bedroom as he tosses and turns. Throughout the movie, musicians show up in the frame with the characters, never acknowledged. The use of musicians onscreen—playing nondiegetic accompaniment, yet visible, like materialized ghosts—is unique. It’s a simple idea, but I can’t recall any movie that uses this technique in exactly this way, and none that’s so dedicated to the concept. And it’s a great idea, because the sounds here are outstanding—ranging from multiple jazz combos to a tabla, a dulcimer, and even more exotic instruments like the Ethiopian krar (harp) and the Japanese shakuhachi (bamboo flute).

It’s all pleasantly eccentric, which is much of the appeal. Ozma does, however, also explore a serious topic: the widower’s pathological, insomnia-inducing grief, which has mellowed from traumatic sadness into a permanent personality feature. Jeff’s entire story, frequently told in voiceover, is addressed to his absent wife. His journey to take the telepathic jellyfish to its appointed rendezvous reflects his adoption of a healthier relationship to his memories. Ozma is modest in means—in its household props and London public street locations, in Ferdy Roberts’s calm portrayal of Jeff, in its reliance on monochrome —but ambitious in its ideas. Ozma is musical, original and inventive: it’s not just the same old tired story about an insomniac toting a telepathic jellyfish around London.


“… a surreal mission… all at once city symphony, Egyptological noir, oneiric odyssey and heady tale of psychic healing,”–Anton Bitel, SciFiNow (festival screening)