The Painter and the Thief ★★★½ H360 Radio Podcast

A still from The Painter and the Thief by Benjamin Ree, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Benjamin Ree.

Astonishing in tone and cinematic beauty, are words that describe Benjamin Ree’s documentary “The Painter and the Thief.” By use of “verité style,” (a genre of film, that emphasizes realism and naturalism), we view first-hand the stranger-than-fiction relationship between Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova and a junkie named Karl-Bertil Nordland who stole two of her large paintings.

We become privy to the notion what sometimes actually happens is more bizarre than anything that could have been imagined. Kysilkova had recently moved to Oslo, in hopes of making a new life for herself.

Covering a three-year journey, director Ree knew he wanted to direct a film about an art heist, and became interested when during the court trial when Kysilkova approached the thief, Nordland, and asked if he would agree to pose for a portrait.

Shockingly we view Kysilkova saying to her husband, “The moment I have met him (Nordland) at the courtroom, I really sort of fell in love with him,” her supportive husband, Øystein Stene says, “Do you realize that your relationship with Nordland is similar to letting a child play in traffic.” He’s concerned about his dependence on her and her continuance in a relationship that could be part of a self-destructive pattern.

Her portraits are complex, offering the viewer a glimpse into the soul of her subject, there is a tortured, yet beautiful alignment to her work.

The Bottom-line? I’m way in ★★★½ stars out of four. The story is based on empathy and compassion; it’s an artwork in itself as we view an artist at work. Truly a beautiful film.

Sarah Knight Adamson© May 30, 2020

Here’s the link to the Radio Broadcast on Hollywood 360.