The Painter and the Thief
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The film has explored a very deep psychological complexity and has done it most elegantly and flawlessly. There are only three human beings for the most part of the film and for a large part they are lost and isolated in wilderness. The transition of two boys from boyhood to manhood is the main theme. Their relationship with their little-known father is very intense, as intense as in an animal level. There is conflict, hatred and also blind obedience. Underneath all the passing emotions there is something deep inside, a feeling of love.
The juvenile actors have superbly represented the fine nuances of emotional conflict and crisis. It could not be any better than that. The behavior of the humans lost in the wild is as mysterious as the mysterious nature itself. There is something inexplicable, something you have to feel but cannot be said in words. The air of mystery will haunt you. You cannot just sit easy and enjoy, it is not a movie of that kind.
It may be a difficult film to watch, but it is certainly much more difficult to forget
A brutal and powerful cinematic work. The no-nonsense realism of a violent social environment will leave you shocked. The people are haunted by a faceless enemy, the vicious circle of hatred and vengeance. Nobody finds the way out, though all feel time and again that it is not the right course. In such environment an individual grows up, being torn between conflicting emotions and opposing values of life. It was a sad but elegant experience, a brilliant piece of work by all means.
If it had been a Hollywood film, it would have probably ended happily in an amazing rhetoric and applause in a feel-good atmosphere. But this is totally different. It is a serious social drama from the Dardenne brothers who have created their own cult in social realism, insecure working-class peoples' tale. It will make you feel uneasy and distressed, but at the same time hopeful. There is cruelty and kindness of human society side by side. Our protagonist is not a heroine, she is a common hapless individual pushed to the brink in the ruthless struggle for existence. She is begging for kindness, and in the course of her struggle unwillingly changes the course of other peoples' lives also. The Dardennes have tried to find the silver lining of compassion from the abyss of cruelty. We saw the same in their The Kid with a Bike also. I think their ultimate ideology is faith in goodness of humankind.
You will find very few such films showing such a bleak picture of childhood. It is going to hit you hard and you are not going to forget it if you really have the feeling for it. The childhood is sensitive, undecided and misled. It is finding no support in the hapless social circumstance. I also felt that it is about the yearning for freedom, specifically I loved the scene where the balloon carries the mouse out. James also looks for this freedom, from the destitute society, and maybe even from his own sense of guilt. The ending is possibly the most heart-breaking it could be. It is a film hard to watch, but a lot harder to forget. It is a gem of coming of age cinema.
You can start it all over again even if all your past is erased out. Only you need some kindness of your fellow humans. The story of the film is deceptively simple. Characters are few. You have to love the absurd protagonist through all his predicament, you have to feel for him. There is a very subtle sense of humor which is so much different from the present day Hollywood-style coarse humor. It is a brilliant and unique art-work from the Finnish director, I have to watch the other two films of the trilogy also.