The Painter and the Thief


When painter Barbora Kysilkova moves to Oslo to launch her painting career, her first two large format works are stolen from a local art gallery.

The thieves are captured and the leader brought to trial. In an unusual move, Barbora approaches the thief and asks if she can paint his portrait.

That question launches the story of “The Painter and the Thief,” a journey of understanding and friendship.


“The Painter and the Thief” is a complex, ironic, cyclical and ultimately satisfying documentary.

Barbora Kysilkova escaped an abusive relationship to pursue her art career in Oslo. The thief, Karl Bertil, was a neglected child, living with an absentee father and isolated from his siblings after a divorce, Karl eventually found drugs and then crime.

As Karl and Barbora’s friendship grows, it becomes evident that they have a symbiotic relationship – she is his model for what he could have been and he her muse.

The most riveting documentaries are those that take viewers on a memorable journey – and this film does just that.

As we discover that Barbora is as broken as Karl, we realize that these two people are not all that different – one took a path as artist, the other as art thief.

It’s ultimately this victim’s decision to talk to the thief that changes both of their lives and it’s her decision to forgive that gives this film its soul.

At the center of the story is Barbora’s art – stirring works of incredible detail – almost photographic quality – with a dark sliver of her soul in each piece. When the pictures are stolen, viewers immediately want justice – these pieces must once again see the light of day. However, though unforgettable, Kysilkova’s art is only the catalyst for the film, it’s Karl and Barbora who define the film and make it worth watching.

The strength of this documentary is its consistency and honesty. Director Benjamin Ree allowed this story to unfold. The natural narrative is evident and distinguishes this film. It takes trust in the subjects and your own skill as a documentarian to create a strong documentary like this.

“The Painter and the Thief” will steal your attention as this film reveals its simple truth – that sometimes a single decision can alter lives.

“The Painter and the Thief” opens Friday May 22nd on all streaming platforms and via virtual cinema partners nationwide.