IDENTITY: Benjamin Ree's spin on the art heist surprises and invites.
Hariette Yahr
Published date: February 23, 2020

One of the buzzed-about films at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival was The Painter and the Thief, directed by Norwegian filmmaker Benjamin Ree. This extraordinary doc tells the story of a friendship that develops between an artist and a man who stole her paintings — and the surprising depths of their bond.

Oslo residents might recall the robbery, which occurred on April 20, 2015. Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova was preparing for an upcoming show at Oslo’s Galleri Nobel. At lunchtime, two men broke into the gallery and meticulously removed two large canvasses, nail by nail, from their frames.

Ree’s film takes over from there, thanks to surveillance video that helped the police nab the thieves. Through the camera’s eye, we see Kysilkova watch the crime unfold. Yes, her paintings are being stolen («They even tied it with rope» she witnesses. «Tape and rope around the canvasses!»). We don’t know it yet, but this meta-observational mode sets the tone for the perspective-shifting ride on which we are about to embark.

Painter and the Thief-post1 The Painter and the Thief, Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Benjamin …

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