The Painter and the Thief
When artist Barbora Kysilkova has two of her paintings stolen from the window of an Oslo gallery in broad daylight, she approaches one of the perpetrators in court – Karl-Bertil Nordland – and finds herself asking him to model for her next artwork. From here, the pair, who are equally broken and artistically creative in their own ways, form an intimate friendship that unfolds in an unexpected manner. To divulge any specific details about what happens next in the journey of these unlikely companions would drastically spoil the experience of watching Benjamin Ree’s The Painter and the Thief (his second feature film following 2016’s Magnus). But what does follow is raw, captivating and highly emotional.
To be successful, a documentary generally needs to be built on the foundation of two pillars: a central story that’s stranger than fiction, and the ability to convey said narrative in a way that brings out its deeper meanings. Ree’s newest picture possesses both components, on which he’s able to construct a multi-layered and complex portrait of friendship.
Like the title suggests, the movie is about both Kysilkova and Norland. Ree treats each subject with equal importance by framing sections from their individual perspectives, giving each the chance to voice their thoughts. Similarly, corresponding sections often take place during the same time frame so that viewers can grasp the bigger picture from both sides of the story. Rather than regurgitating events the audience has just seen, though, the director takes the chance to dig a little deeper into how each person arrives at a certain circumstance. And with the two key players being such fascinating individuals, getting to know them in this manner only heightens the overall impact of their relationship.
Taking an indirect approach to his filmmaking, Ree lets the camera do most of the work. Many of the most powerful scenes in this feature (which won’t be spoiled here) are wordless, captured in one long shot. It’s highly intimate and the audience is invited to share these very personal moments – it’s touching without ever feeling voyeuristic.
Capturing the strong connection between two friends who meet in the strangest of circumstances, Ree’s The Painter and the Thief demonstrates just how wonderfully weird life can be.
The Painter and the Thief is released in select cinemas on 30th October 2020.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for The Painter and the Thief here: