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The Painter and the Thief(Kunstneren og tyven)

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Norway · 2020
1h 46m
Director Benjamin Ree
Starring Barbora Kysilkova, Karl-Bertil Nordland, Øystein Stene, Linda Ville Marie Ruud
Genre Documentary

When two of artist Barbora Kysilkova’s most valuable paintings are stolen from a gallery at Frogner in Oslo, the police find the thief after a few days, but the paintings have disappeared. Barbora attends the trial in hopes of finding clues, but instead she ends up asking the thief if he will sit for a portrait.

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The Globe and Mail (Toronto) by Barry Hertz

The Painter and the Thief might be the best documentary of the year, if it could be fairly called a documentary. Instead, director Benjamin Ree’s film is more a mesmerizing, and potentially transgressive, investigation into just how far the documentary form can be torn apart and put back together – and whether the audience should accept such a wild reconfiguration.


IndieWire by David Ehrlich

Intimate and involving as it can be, The Painter and the Thief increasingly leaves the impression that Kysilkova and Nordland are holding something back.


San Francisco Chronicle by G. Allen Johnson

For the most part, The Painter and the Thief seems authentic, a very real portrait of two unique individuals. It not only explores the artistic impulse, but also issues of relationships, addiction and rehab. It also provides an interesting glimpse into the Norwegian prison system, which is geared toward rehabilitation rather than punishment.


Chicago Tribune by Katie Walsh

It is an almost startlingly intimate film, following this strange relationship between these two, as they go through the challenges of life.


The A.V. Club by Mike D'Angelo

Twists and turns shape the narrative, but not always to Ree’s benefit; he responds by scrambling his film’s chronology in ways that threaten to rupture any sense of trust between director and viewer. Questions that one might ordinarily have dismissed instead take hold and fester. Just how real is any of this?


Variety by Peter Debruge

To get the desired emotional reaction, The Painter and the Thief proves able to deceive in ways that are best discovered for yourself. It works: In a genius final stroke, Ree pulls back to reveal the entire canvas, putting key aspects of this unconventional portrait into startling new perspective.


Movie Nation by Roger Moore

What we’re left with is a fascinating glimpse of the myopic mania for “inspiration” of the artist, and a look at a culture where compassion and restitution (apparently) carry more weight than “punishment’ for the thief.


Screen Daily by Stephen Whitty

The Painter and the Thief suggests, human relationships are complex and multidimensional things. And whenever you foolishly start to try to contain them in a simple frame, they stubbornly burst out.


The Hollywood Reporter by Todd McCarthy

The film’s sustained intimacy speaks highly of the trust the subjects came to feel for the filmmaker, who is able to cut to the quick as he follows and reveals their life phases while also maintaining a filmmaker’s discreet distance. It’s an unusual look at the slipperiness of the human condition.

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