The Painter and the Thief by Benjamin Ree [9/10]

Filmed over four years and perfectly constructed by hitherto unknown documentary filmmaker Benjamin Rees, “The Painter and the Thief” is concurrently a fascinating relationship drama, a deep reflection on art, and an exploration of humanity. When painter Barbara Kysilkova’s two standout paintings are robbed from an Oslo gallery, the main thief, drug addict Karl Bertil-Nordland is soon caught. The paintings remain missing. On an impulse, the painter asks the thief if she can paint him; on an impulse, he agrees. I won’t spoil the riveting plot but suffice to say the two begin a fraught journey together, the thief spiraling back towards prison but yearning for the light, the painter struggling with inner darkness and artistic poverty. The discreet capture of scenes, often months apart, casts each event as private and intense. Barbara and Karl are charismatic in their own ways, both questing. The entire arc of the story is unexpected and moments of beauty abound. Not a moment is wasted, and The Painter and the Thief deserves to be anointed in this year’s awards.

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