LFF Review: The Painter and The Thief

As Mark Twain once opined, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” As current events are demonstrating all too comprehensively, sometimes you just couldn’t make it up. When it comes to cinema, it can often be those true stories which are the most fascinating and leave the biggest impression. This is where documentary filmmaking comes into its own, allowing storytelling to come to the fore.

The Painter and The Thief is a case in point. Benjamin Ree’s new documentary seems too preposterous to be true, but it is. Barbora Kysilkova’s exhibition in an Oslo gallery didn’t quite go to plan when two of her beautiful large paintings were stolen. At the trial, she asked one of the defendants why he did it and his response sparked a strange and unusual friendship. After painting Karl-Bertil Nordland, the pair formed an unlikely bond.

The Painter and The Thief is a story of two lost souls who are brought together through circumstance and a staggering act of empathy. These outsiders are unlikely friends but share much more in common than you’d expect. It’s a sad and sometimes troubling story which is pieced together skilfully by Ree, whose non-linear approach adds an extra element to proceedings. The Painter and The Thief is one of the most surprising documentaries of the year.

The Painter and The Thief screened at London Film Festival and is available in cinemas and on-demand on 30 October.

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