The Painter and the Thief (2020)

  |  Documentary

The Painter and the Thief (2020) Poster

An artist befriends the thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.




  • Karl Bertil-Nordland in The Painter and the Thief (2020)
  • Barbora Kysilkova at an event for The Painter and the Thief (2020)
  • The Painter and the Thief (2020)
  • The Painter and the Thief (2020)
  • Benjamin Ree at an event for The Painter and the Thief (2020)
  • Ingvil Giske, Robert Stengård, Benjamin Ree, and Kristoffer Kumar at an event for The Painter and the Thief (2020)

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29 May 2020 | jdesando
Compassion and love and empathy in one challenging documentary. That's art.
A photo-realist painter asks to do a portrait of the thief who stole her masterpiece from an Oslo museum. He complies and some strange variation of Stockholm emerges, tats and all. The Painter and Thief is a documentary like none you have seen before-the crime is real, and the principles are the originals. Weird and complicated as the real crime was, this documentary beats it by a Louvre mile.

Barbora Kysilkova had been a minor Czech photo realism star now settled in Norway. When Karl Bertil-Nordland steals two of her paintings, he is distraught enough that to agree to the portrait. Why she needs to do it would confuse a convention of Freudians, why he does is inscrutable because he can't even remember why he committed it in the first place. Or rather, he doesn't offer his drug intake as excuse.

The Painter and the Thief eschews the usual documentary over- analysis of subjects because there is not an iota of chance that either understands their reasons. As far as the realism of a documentary, like Christopher Nolan, director Benjamin Ree skillfully upends the usual chronology and logic to play with their time together and ours to figure out the real reason this is happening.

Not that we ever get to that point. Bertil turns out to be much more than an addled addict obsessed with an artist, and in that resolution of character, the film takes off into the abstract world of artistic intent, inspiration, an truth. Bertil's untutored passion for artistic expression (try to take your eyes off his tats-you can't because like his disoriented life, there appears to be no reason for the designs until he starts to explain them). Same with the film, so keep reading good critics if you want to find Ree's labyrinth.

Perhaps this film is memorable because it looks like boilerplate docudrama and it isn't or because it looks like art and it is actually life not completely understood. If you are reading this review, you'll be happy to be seduced by the ineffability of art. This is not a documentary; it is art.

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Release Date:

22 May 2020


English, Norwegian

Country of Origin

Norway, USA

Box Office


NOK5,993,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:


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