When two paintings by Czech naturalist Barbora Kysilkova are stolen from an Oslo art gallery, Norwegian authorities quickly identify and arrest the two thieves but find no trace of the paintings. Hoping to learn what happened, Barbora approaches one of the thieves, Karl-Bertil Nordland, at his criminal hearing. She asks if she can paint his portrait and, contrite, he agrees. What follows—over a series of portraits and many years—is an extraordinary story of human connection and friendship.
Using a structure that cleverly shifts perspectives, Norwegian filmmaker Benjamin Ree unfolds the fraught lives and vulnerabilities of two souls who come to recognize themselves in the other—the darkness, wounds, compulsions, and self-destructive behavior. Ree captures the revelatory moment when Bertil, a junkie and petty crook who has done jail time, first sees his portrait and breaks down completely. Throughout the film, our understanding of both people—and even the stolen paintings—changes entirely. In life, certain aspects of human nature defy comprehension, and yet Ree materializes them in a way that is accessible and transcendent.
- Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling (World Cinema Documentary) - Sundance FF
- Best Documentary - BFI London Film Festival
- Benjamin Ree
- Kristoffer Kumar
- Robert Stengård
- Uno Helmersson
- AUTLOOK FILMSALES
“Ree uses dramatic devices to tell this tale, structuring the documentary a bit like a novel”
“It’s a raw and loaded... frequently riveting movie... a work of art unto itself”
“It delivers the biggest surprise”
“Breathtaking to watch”
Benjamin Ree's spin on the art heist surprises and invites.
Benjamin Ree is a Norwegian documentary filmmaker who began his career working for BBC and Reuters. Today he makes award-winning short and feature documentary films. Ree’s first feature, MAGNUS (2016) (about the world’s best chess player), was sold to 64 countries and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Ree works for the production company and broadcaster VGTV, which co-produced both MAGNUS and his second feature, THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF.