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  • Caroline Cassin

Film.”The Painter and The Thief". Art & redemption.

Film.”The Painter and The Thief": The true story of a friendship between an artist and her thief.

Available now on online streaming platforms.


« The painter and the thief », is the true story of a Czech artist, Barbora Kysilkova, who exhibited her artwork at the Nobel Gallery in Oslo in 2015 and had two of her works stolen. Being desperate for answers about the theft of her two paintings, she went to look for and befriend the career criminal who stole them: Karl-Bertil Nordland. After inviting her thief to pose for a portrait, the two form an unlikely relationship and an inextricable bond that will forever bind these lonely souls.

The director of the film, Benjamin Ree (born in 1989) tells how the desire to make this film came to him: « I’ve always been fascinated with art theft. I think it’s because of the contrasts. The socially elevated art industry with a lot of cultural capital meets “lower-class” criminals with rough backgrounds. These contrasts raise questions that intrigue me. Who are these thieves? How do they choose their paintings, and is it for money or because of a genuine love of art? »

All these questions marked the beginning of this project. B. Ree started by researching art theft on Google. He says that in the course of his research, he had many encounters with art thieves, but "nothing that was worth filming" according to him.

Then he stumbled upon the story of an art theft at the Nobel gallery in Oslo in 2015. Two paintings by a little-known artist had been stolen, and the two thieves were arrested and sentenced to 75 days in prison, but only one of them showed up at the trial.

He says: « The thing that really piqued my interest was when I learned that the artist had asked the thief if she could paint him. I contacted the painter, and the story I was about to capture would blow my mind. »

When he discovered this fascinating story, it was about the fourth time Barbora and Karl-Bertil met, so B. Ree had no idea they were going to become friends.

Some important scenes had already been filmed before B. Ree started filming. Indeed, a friend of Barbora's had documented her artistic life, taking photos and filming the making of the two paintings that were later to be stolen, she had filmed the exhibition and parts of the trial.

B. Ree says that at first he had no idea how the story would unfold: « That’s always my favorite way of starting a project. Knowing nothing, just following my curiosity—and the film ended up not being about art theft, but about an intricate and unusual friendship. »

The shooting of the film lasted more than three years. Three years exploring the evolution of a complex friendship between a painter and his thief.

In making this film, Benjamin Ree's ambition was to succeed in raising two questions: "What do we humans do to be seen and appreciated, and why do we help others? " He hoped that after watching his film, viewers would ask themselves these kinds of intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging questions by observing human behaviour.

The aim of the film is summed up by Karl-Bertil, the main actor in the story: "I hope the film can confront people’s stigmas and remove some stigmas from society. Maybe people can see that you can be a smart and good-hearted person even if you have some trouble"

To watch the movie :

The painter and the thief


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