The Painter and the Thief | Chicago Reader
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The Painter and the Thief

In this uninspired documentary from Norwegian filmmaker Benjamin Ree, we witness the start and later development of a beautiful friendship, one that’s undeniably meaningful to the participants but no more interesting because of that. The friendship involves the titular painter, Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova, and the thief, a troubled Norwegian man named Karl-Bertil Nordland, both of whom are likeable on-screen presences. Ree follows the pair after Nordland and a coconspirator steal two of Kysilkova’s paintings and they meet in an Oslo courtroom, forming an unlikely bond that perseveres over the years. As a result, Nordland becomes the subject of several of Kysilkova’s hyperrealistic paintings, while grappling with childhood trauma and the drug addiction that led him to commit the crime. The film reflects both subjects’ perspective on these events, likewise showing Kysilkova to be a complicated person with her own issues. Despite the novel subject matter, I was largely unimpressed by this bromidic probing of a stranger-than-fiction scenario, yet another of which, I’d argue, doesn’t necessitate its own documentary. In English and subtitled Norwegian.

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