To ask questions that are intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging

INTERVIEW«My background was from journalism, I had to learn film language», says Benjamin Ree on his The Painter and the Thief.

Lauren Wissot
Lauren Wissot is a US film critic and journalist, filmmaker and programmer, and a contributing editor at both
Published date: March 12, 2020

 What were the biggest challenges in following these often emotionally precarious protagonists Barbora and Karl-Bertil over so many years?
 The biggest challenge was to watch people suffering emotionally and to film that. I think that’s a huge dilemma for a documentary filmmaker. Should you give the person a hug, or should you continue filming? Most of the time I continued filming, before I gave a hug towards the end. The reason I did this was that we had a common understanding that it was important for us – Bertil, Barbora and me – to document the uncensored, rough reality they were facing.

 The film is not only strikingly cinematic but unusually structured. How did you decide on the overall aesthetic?
 I thought a lot about wanting to show Bertil as the complex and intelligent guy that he is. I couldn’t achieve that without seeing the world from his point of view.
– I got the inspiration from a particular therapeutic, practical exercise – where you are challenged to see the world from your own and another person’s perspective. You change this many time during the exercise. This therapy (perceptual perception) has made a huge impression on me. I tried to apply that to the film. The same with the voiceover – they were very inspired by how people talk in psychoanalysis, with the stream of consciousness. I tried to «interview» them in this way and hope they would feel free to speak in an open and introspective way.
– I was also inspired by the silent films Man with a Movie Camera  and The Phantom Carriage – how they dared to find a form and structure that worked well with the theme and story. This they did already in the 1920s.

 Considering how artistic this film is, I was surprised to learn that you actually began your career with the BBC and Reuters.
– Filmmaking for me is to try to ask questions that are intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging in a cinematic way by observing human behavior. Since my background was from journalism, I had to learn film language and relearn what I thought about storytelling. That I could transfer the interviews to a …

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