The Painter and the Thief

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The Painter and the Thief
The Painter and the Thief.jpg
Official poster
Directed byBenjamin Ree [nb]
Produced byIngvil Giske
Starring
  • Barbora Kysilkova
  • Karl-Bertil Nordland
Cinematography
  • Kristoffer Kumar
  • Benjamin Ree
Edited byRobert Stengård
Music byUno Helmersson
Production
companies
Distributed byNeon
Release dates
  • January 23, 2020 (2020-01-23) (Sundance)
  • May 22, 2020 (2020-05-22) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
Countries
  • United States
  • Norway
Languages
  • English
  • Norwegian

The Painter and the Thief is a 2020 Norwegian documentary film directed by Benjamin Ree [nb].

Synopsis[edit]

The film follows Barbora Kysilkova, an artist, forming a friendship with Karl-Bertil Nordland, a man who stole her artwork.

Cast[edit]

  • Barbora Kysilkova
  • Karl-Bertil Nordland
  • Øystein Stene

Release[edit]

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2020,[1] where it won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling.[2]

Shortly after, Neon acquired distribution rights to the film.[3] It was released in the United States on May 22, 2020.[4]

Background[edit]

In an interview with The Guardian, director Benjamin Ree said that he aimed to explore the questions "What do humans do in order to be seen and appreciated” and "What it takes of us to help and see others.”[5]

The idea for the film came when Ree read about the robbery in various Norwegian newspapers.[6] He contacted the painter Barbora Kysilkova and began filming her first, and it took some time to convince Karl-Bertil Nordland to participate. Ree began filming both of them together the fourth time they met.[7]

The film started as a short documentary with the filmmakers not knowing what would happen or where the story would go. Eventually, they decided to make it a feature after seeing Nordland's first reaction to his portrait. They filmed from 2016 to 2019.[8]

The archival footage in the film is mainly filmed by a friend of Kysilkova, who already began filming her back in 2014. She took photographs and filmed the making of the two paintings that later would be stolen. She was also at the exhibition and participated in the trial. The courtroom recordings are the actual recording of the first meeting of Nordland and Kysilkova, where the latter brought with her an audio recorder to get the trial translated afterwards. She approached Nordland during a break. The film also uses the actual CCTV footage of the robbery, which was the main evidence in the trial.[9]

Kysilkova spoke English in the film as she didn't understand Norwegian.[10]

Ree chose to present the film in an unconventional structure as “We wanted to portray Karl-Bertil as a complex, charismatic, intelligent guy. The only way to do that was to see the world from his perspective."[11]

Critical reception[edit]

The Painter and the Thief received positive reviews from film critics, mainly for its direction, story, structure and emotional weight. It holds a 'fresh' 96% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 110 critic reviews, with an average of 8.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Painter and the Thief uses the unlikely bond between a criminal and his victim as the canvas for a compelling portrait of compassion and forgiveness."[12] On Metacritic, the film is currently assigned a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on 33 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13]

Cath Clarke from The Guardian awarded the film 4 stars out of 5, describing it as "astonishing, emotionally electric" and writing, "What an engrossing film – and the gender reversal of a male muse inspiring a female painter has got to be one small step for art-world equality,"[14] while Adrian Horton called the film a "remarkable documentary" that "plays more like a twisting narrative film than real-life portrait."[15]

In his review, Nick Schager from The Daily Beast describes the story as "a true-crime tale reconfigured into a unique relationship saga, replete with twists, turns, heartbreak, failure and redemption that’s as surprising as it is well-earned." He also praised the film's ending as "unbelievably unexpected, poignant, and altogether perfect."[16]

Peter Debruge wrote for Variety magazine that its direction and editing "don’t give us all the information we might need to form a clear understanding of their subjects’ actions, yet their approach is not only more artistic but somehow more representative of real life", also noting its "time-bending nonlinear structure and various sleight-of-hand techniques to deliver information when it’s most effective."[17]

Paul Byrnes wrote in his review for The Sydney Morning Herald, "The level of trust required to allow a filmmaker to document their lives is in itself moving, but it mirrors the relationship they have with each other," adding that "The slow revelation of [Barbora's] pain makes clear just how artful Ree’s work on structure has been in this achingly beautiful true story."[18]

Brian Tallerico from RogerEbert.com awarded The Painter and the Thief 3 stars out of 4, writing that it "illuminates a great deal about the human condition" and that some sequences "are going to stick with me for a long time." He added, "Ree has a very cinematic language, shooting long shots down hallways, trailing his subjects like a French New Wave director would follow his fictional creations down a sidewalk." However, he felt that the film "does kind of fizzle out in the third act ... I was hoping for something to take the film to the next level in the final section, but the opposite almost happens. A question that feels like it should have been asked long before is saved for the 'climax', and I was reminded of the construction of the film in a negative way."[19]

Writing for the magazine Little White Lies, Leila Latif commended the director for tackling the film's themes "with gentle curiosity, never pushing the subjects to probe this dynamic too forcefully, but rather allowing it to slowly unveil itself."[20]

David Ehrlich from IndieWire gave the film the grade B−, calling it a "a tender psychosexual tale of art and ownership" and a "nuanced and beguiling new documentary about the various things we all take from each other." He also wrote, "Ree doesn’t pat himself on the back for his efforts to humanize both of his title characters. Instead, The Painter and the Thief recognizes how art — ostensibly, empathetic art most of all — has a nasty habit of flattening its subject in order to fulfill its audience, and the film does what it can to complicate the privileged gaze of looking at someone like they can’t look at you back."[21]

Awards[edit]

The film won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival,[2][22] the Golden Firebird Award at Hong Kong International Film Festival[23] and the Audience Award at London Film Festival.[24]

Best-of lists[edit]

The Painter and the Thief was ranked as the best documentary film of 2020 by the BBC,[25] The Washington Post,[26] and The Boston Globe.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (December 4, 2019). "Sundance Unveils Female-Powered Lineup Featuring Taylor Swift, Gloria Steinem, Abortion Road Trip Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 8, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "The Painter and the Thief". Sundance Film Festival. Archived from the original on April 27, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  3. ^ Szlai, Georg (February 24, 2020). "Neon Takes Worldwide Rights on 'The Painter and the Thief'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 25, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  4. ^ Sneider, Jeff (April 29, 2020). "'The Painter and the Thief' Trailer Promises an Art Heist With an Emotional Twist". Collider. Archived from the original on May 22, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  5. ^ "The Painter and the Thief: behind the year's most moving documentary". The Guardian. May 20, 2020. Archived from the original on February 8, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  6. ^ "How an Artist Befriended the Thief Who Stole Her Painting". Vanity Fair. May 21, 2020. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  7. ^ "Benjamin Ree Reinvents the Documentary Form with the Boundary Breaking 'The Painter and the Thief'". Directors notes. October 28, 2020. Archived from the original on February 12, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  8. ^ "Interview: Benjamin Ree, Barbora Kysilkova and Karl-Bertil Nordland on Shifting Perspectives with "The Painter and the Thief"". Movable Feast. May 23, 2020. Archived from the original on February 6, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  9. ^ "An Artist Meets the Thief Who Stole Her Work in an Astonishing New Documentary". Observer. February 5, 2020. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  10. ^ "Benjamin Ree Reinvents the Documentary Form with the Boundary Breaking 'The Painter and the Thief'". Director's notes. October 28, 2020. Archived from the original on February 12, 2021. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  11. ^ "Why 'The Painter and the Thief' Is Neon's New Oscar Doc Contender". IndieWire. May 22, 2020. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  12. ^ "The Painter and the Thief". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on 30 May 2020. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  13. ^ "The Painter and the Thief". Metacritic. Archived from the original on May 23, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  14. ^ Clarke, Cath (30 October 2020). "The Painter and the Thief review – astonishing portrait of two lost souls". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 9 December 2020. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  15. ^ Horton, Adrian (2020-05-20). "The Painter and the Thief: behind the year's most moving documentary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2020-06-29. Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  16. ^ Schager, Nick (2020-05-18). "The Unbelievable True Story of an Artist Who Formed a Lasting Bond With Her Thief". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 2020-06-02. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  17. ^ Debruge, Peter (2020-01-24). "'The Painter and the Thief': Film Review". Variety. Archived from the original on 2021-03-02. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  18. ^ Byrnes, Paul (24 March 2021). "Achingly beautiful true story defies belief". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 27 March 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  19. ^ Tallerico, Brian (22 May 2020). "The Painter and the Thief movie review (2020)". RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on 2021-01-24. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  20. ^ Latif, Leila (30 October 2020). "The Painter and the Thief". Little White Lies. Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  21. ^ Ehrlich, David (2020-01-24). "'The Painter and the Thief' Review: A Tender Psychosexual Tale of Art and Ownership". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 2021-03-28. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  22. ^ "2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS ANNOUNCED". Sundance Film Festival. February 1, 2020. Archived from the original on October 12, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  23. ^ "'The Painter and the Thief': Art, crime, addiction and friendship explored in moving Norwegian documentary". Gold Derby. November 3, 2020. Archived from the original on November 3, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  24. ^ "Another Round wins top award at London film festival". The Guardian. October 20, 2020. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  25. ^ Nicholas Barber; Caryn James (18 December 2020). "The best films of 2020". BBC. Archived from the original on 18 December 2020. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  26. ^ Hornaday, Ann (8 December 2020). "Best movies of 2020: Diverse thrills, chills, Dickensian laughs and a pandemic-friendly trip to Greece". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2021-01-19. Retrieved 2021-01-17.
  27. ^ Burr, Ty (December 18, 2020). "Here are 10 excellent movies (and 25 runners-up) from a not-so-excellent year". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 18 December 2020. Retrieved 18 December 2020.

External links[edit]