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“Desperate for answers about the theft of her 2 paintings, a Czech artist seeks out and befriends the career criminal who stole them.” (Youtube)

Restoration and Transformation

Meaghan Ritchey, Director of Marketing & Communications (Imagejournal.com) writes:

“In its obsession with the human need to see and be seen, The Painter and the Thief, a new stunning documentary by Morgan Neville, captures an idea that seems perfectly Scandinavian: hyper-realistic portraiture as a form of restorative justice. The film follows Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova as she hunts down two of her paintings, stolen from an Oslo gallery.

When she is eventually able to ask the thief why he did it, he replies: “Because they were beautiful.” After he is released from prison, she asks to paint his portrait. Reluctantly, he agrees—and becomes her muse. The film explores themes of healing out of suffering, wholeness out of self-forgetting, art out of emptiness, and friendship out of loss, but its greatest strength is the way it becomes a portrait itself—of an artist compelled to create at great personal cost. When the thief, Bertil, first sees his portrait, he weeps, trembling. It’s as if he has been seen for the first time. Though Bertil is the one we see restored, Barbora, too, is being transformed.”

Being seen for the First Time

The thief is restored to personhood by way of being searched out & searched for; by way of being seen; and by way of being captured in portraiture – the gentle power of art.

There is something transformative as, slowly before our eyes, we no longer see Bertil as a caricature of a thief, but as a person with a story – and with a new chapter of redemption and restoration.

Think of the nerve it took for artist Kysilkova to search for the person who stole her art pieces; think of the courage of the convicted thief coming out of prison to eventually meet the person from whom he stole her art.

Kysilkova says:

Since I am a painter I’d like to make a portrait of you…

[Eventually] There’s no way I could see the thief in this guy.

“After inviting her thief to sit for a portrait, the two form an improbable relationship and an inextricable bond that will forever link these lonely souls”(Youtube). Bertil comes to say,

She sees me very well… but she forgets I can see her too

He takes our Portrait

To me this is a picture of what Jesus does with us:

He seeks out our thieving selves and asks – not to take back what we’ve stolen – but to take our portrait. He is compelled to create at great personal cost till eventually we can no longer see the thief in ourselves.

Weeping washes away the damning filters from our eyes as we come to know we have been seen, truly seen.

In the process we somehow gain who we are – this masterful process of coming alive – of becoming a person restored in His image against the otherwise distorting current of our lives.

Part of the beauty of this art of restoration is when we can say: ‘the artists sees me very well – but I can see Him too’.

This is…. you know…. much more enigma than the soul can hold in our hearts…

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

I Corinthians 13:12