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The Painter and the Thief

Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova develops an unlikely friendship with the man who stole two of her paintings.

Friendship, forgiveness and the healing power of art are at the center of "The Painter and the Thief," the fascinating story of an unlikely human connection.

Barbora Kysilkova is a renowned Czech artist, known for her photo-realistic paintings. One day two of her works are stolen from an Oslo art gallery, and the two perpetrators are caught on security cam.

Karl-Bertil Nordland is one of the two men brought to trial for the theft. Barbora approaches him in court and offers to paint him, forging a bond that reveals itself in moving, truly unexpected ways. 

Barbora and Karl-Bertil, an admitted junkie and thief with the words "Snitchers are a Dying Breed" tattooed across his chest, become friends, but this is not an easy, flowery story of redemption. (That would be the Hollywood version.)

Barbora's attraction to Karl-Bertil speaks to her own darkness and emotional scarring, and rightly worries her husband, Øystein. Meanwhile, Karl-Bertil has a layered past and his own demons.

Director Benjamin Ree pieces this stranger-than-fiction documentary together like a puzzle, shifting the time structure and the narrative elements to best fit the version of the story he's telling. His technique manipulates the linear architecture but allows him to land an ending that sends shockwaves. The risk is worth the reward.  

Most stunningly, he captures a scene where Karl-Bertil first sees Barbora's painting of him, and he howls like a baby. It's a raw human moment that is emblematic of "The Painter and the Thief," a film that keeps revealing itself in stunning, unpredictable ways. It's a knockout.

Courtesy: Adam Graham, The Detroit News

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Directed by: 
Benjamin Ree
Running Time: 
102 minutes
English and Norwegian (with English subtitles)
Karl Bertil-Nordland
Barbora Kysilkova

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