"Peas at 5:30" is a modern-day fairy tale
Lars Buchel's "Peas at 5:30" is nothing short of a fairy tale. Amidst painted skies, poetic rainfalls and breakfast on the beach, two people, connected through tragedy and happenstance, get tangled up in an enchanted fantasy where beauty takes many forms.
Jakob Magnusson (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) appears as the story's prince. Once a pompous theatre director, Jakob is blinded in a car accident mid-way through his production of "A Mid Summer Night's Dream." Bitter and depressed, Jakob gives up theatre, attempts (and fails at) suicide and demurs help from Lilly (Fritzi Haberlandt), a beautiful and patient guide sent from the Center for the Blind.
Upon receiving the news that his mother is dying, Jakob decides to make the journey from Germany to Russia to say goodbye. Feeling obligated to help the recently handicapped man, Lilly follows despite his frequent rejections.
Somewhere between feeling sorry for himself and his attempts to ditch her, Jakob makes the pivotal discovery that Lilly, despite her savvy sense of navigation, is also blind.
Of course, he falls for her. And of course, she's had it for him the entire time. The formulaic magic of a timeless love story suddenly sweeps the film into a new realm where, despite life-altering crisis, true love conquers all.
Taking a sensuous turn, the film morphs into a romantic exploration of touch and what it means to feel another person's beauty without ever physically seeing them.
But what makes Jakob and Lilly's transformation from enemies to lovers a bit arduous at times are not the crazy situations they happen upon along their Russian road-trip, but more, the film's perpetual failure to explain how they get themselves out of them.
Take the incredibly beautiful scene in which Jakob and Lilly, now lost, are wandering around a vast, sun-kissed field of yellow wild flowers. The ever-stubborn Jakob -- frustrated with his new handicap -- has just whisked himself off the path, as if the flowers might somehow brighten his dark world. Lilly, as usual, is just trying her best to keep up with him.
They both appear so helpless, so desperate, as they walk blind circles around each other, and it is as Jakob throws his arms to the sky and begs "help!" from the heavens that we feel a genuine empathy for their struggle. Yet, before we have time to really reflect on their agony, the scene ends and cuts to them walking arm and arm through a town. Now it is the audience that is left in the dark. We've no clue how they managed to find their way out of that field, much less travel to a town.
But, if you're able to get past the far-fetched scenes -- or better yet, embrace them as part of the surreal, modern-day fairy tale -- "Peas at 5:30" will leave you loving love.
Lars Buchel's "Peas at 5:30" screens as part of the Milwaukee International Film Festival Friday, Oct, 21 at the Downer Theatre at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Times Cinema at 9:30 p.m.
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