There are several epic, films ready for action art robbery for years – the theft of Rembrandt and Renoir in 2000 which involved speedboat escape in Stockholm; a Cézanne who was stolen during a New Year’s fireworks explosion in Oxford; and a $ 500 million art robbery in Boston involving fake police that remained unsolved three decades later. But it was the theft of paintings by unknown artists in Oslo in 2015 that might have resulted in the most interesting art ending.
After two of his most valuable paintings were stolen, a Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova come face to face with a thief Karl-Bertil Nordland in the courtroom. Instead of reprimanding Nordland, he asked him if he could paint his portrait. The unusual friendship that developed over the next three years is noted in Benjamin ReeNew documentary The painter and the thief, available for streaming Friday on Hulu.
The story is so coincidental that, at times, viewers may wonder if the story was written. But in conversation with Vanity Fair, filmmakers, artists and thieves insist that the relationship develops organically.
“It is absolutely not my plan to make friends with my thief,” Kysilkova said Vanity Fair, explained that his initial idea was to paint Nordland stealing his artwork as a way to regain the narrative surrounding the incident. “But when I entered the court, when I saw Karl-Bertil there, this first concept completely disappeared because what I saw there was not criminal. I really saw a very vulnerable and broken person sitting there in the courtroom. “
When he met Nordland – who fought against drug addiction – for portrait paintings, he saw the whole thing. “It ended with me painting Karl-Bertil as a person and not as a thief,” Kysilkova said. “I can see that Karl-Bertil is really more than just a problem child. He really has an amazing personality and extraordinary humor. He is very smart.”
Ree said that he had researched art robberies when he discovered the story of Kysilkova and Nordland in Norwegian newspapers, and initially thought the recording would produce a 10-minute documentary. But Ree tracked down artists and thieves for about 100 meetings – with his emotional climax being the meeting where Nordland showed Kysilkova the portrait he made of himself. He was so overwhelmed by the oil painting before him, and the flood of emotions that came from being seen, that he collapsed into sobs all over the body. At a later point in the documentary, Nordland revealed that, although he did not paint Kysilkova, he paid close attention to it: “He saw me very well, but he forgot I could see it too.”
In addition to noting their friendship, this documentary tracks artists and thieves in their individual struggles to overcome the darkness – including Kysilkova with her journey to get through previous cruel relationships and support herself through her artwork. Nordland, meanwhile, is fighting heroin addiction. Both the artist and the thief have a romantic partner, but are attracted to each other.
Asked to describe friendship, Nordland said of Kysilkova, “She is like my soul mate in some dark way. We share some of the same demons, I think. “
“I can’t say it better,” Kysilkova said. “Of course, our demons may come from different sources.”
For Nordland, who is now a year aware and studying to become a nurse, seeing a finished documentary is a difficult reminder of his past. He was seen, at one point, avoiding his girlfriend to score heroin. “I became aware and clean and lived a completely different life and then now I have to see it on screen – reminds me of all the shame, heroin abuse, and seeing myself like a skinny addict with many problems – it hurts … That’s not cool [to be seen as], but at the same time, I hope people can see that it’s possible to change. This is a motivation for me to stay aware and continue to learn and live the life that I live now. “