The Painter and the Thief
by Cat McAlpine
Barbora Kysilkova is a hyper-realistic painter known for her large, dark pieces. But when two of her paintings are stolen from a gallery in the middle of the day, she begins an unexpected journey to reclaim the most important piece in her collection. Boldly, she asks one of thieves if she can paint him, and he nervously agrees. Though he swears he was too high to remember what happened to the paintings, Barbora cannot stop painting Karl Bertil-Nordland.
The Painter carefully teases out The Thief, but he is watching her right back. What follows is a tender exploration of the things that make us feel broken and how we absorb them into our identities.
The narrative weaving of The Painter and The Thief is what makes it a truly great documentary. Director Benjamin Ree shows you the story through two sets of eyes, both staring into the other. He shapes a beautiful give and take that relates the events based on how they were experienced rather than exactly how they happened.
In exploring the way Barbora and Karl see each other, Ree also explores how we grapple with our many faces, comparing the way we present ourselves and the way we are seen by others.
When Karl sees Barbora’s first painting of him, he is utterly transfixed by the portrait. He cannot take his eyes off of it as he stands and begins to loudly weep.
Although The Painter and The Thief takes a winding path into an incredible and unexpected friendship, it never forgets that it began as a mystery.
This documentary is so intriguing and so honest, you’ll be transfixed until the incredibly satisfying and almost unbelievable end.