Benjamin Ree's documentary about the unlikely and dangerously unboundaried relationship between a painter and an art thief is fascinating if overlong. I felt it might've worked best as a one hour Louis Theroux TV show. It features Czech realist oil painter Barbora Kysilkova, who left an abusive ex-boyfriend for Oslo where she married an apparently endlessly supportive and level-headed husband. While there, two of her most famous paintings were stolen with apparent care in broad daylight, so that apprehending the thief is pretty easy. He turns out to be a deeply sad, disturbed junkie called Karl-Bertil Nordland. He has a sincere and profound appreciation for art and stole the paintings because they moved him so deeply. She befriends him at the trial and offers to paint him, and one of the saddest and most moving parts of the doc is seeing his genuine emotion at being elevated to a work of art. And yet he remains a slippery character, conveniently blacking out about where her paintings are. And it's only toward the end of the film that she finds them and seemingly steals them back. There's also something really unboundaried about how far she becomes enmeshed in his life, even providing car after a bad injury, and one can't help but side with her husband who sees her saviour complex and wants her to pull back. Still, at a time of extreme disunity and strife, there's something touching about a film about deep humanity and compassion, and the ability of art to cut through pain and communicate.
THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF has a running time of 102 minutes. The film played Sundance and London 2020. It was released earlier this year in the USA and will be released on October 30th.