“KING OF THIEVES”–“Oliver Twist” redux

“King of Thieves”

“Oliver Twist” Redux

Amos Lassen

The story of “Oliver Twist” has inspired several modern adoptions including “King of Thieves” (Picture This Entertainment). The film was the official submission to the 2005 Academy Awards for best foreign film from Slovakia and has won other major awards.

Barbu, a ten-year old adorable boy lives with his family in a small village in the Ukraine. Coming to town regularly is Caruso who offers to buy children from their parents. He promises a great future in the Western world as members of his circus. He manages to get Barbu to go to Berlin with him. Barbu and the circus are not a good fit so Caruso hands him over to a group of crooks who teach children how to steal. If he kids do not steal enough or keep part of the loot for themselves, they are punished. Barbu seems to have found his place and is determined to become the “King of Thieves”. While Barbu is honing his skills, Caruso buys his sister and sells her to a whore house in Berlin. Barbu now has the goal of rescuing his sister and setting her free.

The acting and the subject matter of “King of Thieves” is absolutely amazing and give the film a feel of reality. The film is a powerful indictment against child slavery and this makes it a difficult film to watch but a necessary one. The fact that it is contemporary makes it important. Watching Barbu transition to be the king of  thieves is heartbreaking. The ending of the film will leave a mark on you that will stay for quite a long time.

Ivan Fila does an incredible job of directing. He shows us the insides of child trafficking and the bonding among the children and their transient feelings of power as they learn how to steal. Everything about the film is the best it could be. The beauty of the characters and the opposing ideas of darkness and light, sourness and sweetness, good and bad and hope and despair are all depicted with a stroke of genius. The actors are newcomers and they are brilliant.

From the very start there is an aura of both joy and doom. Caruso is a “creep” but his acting is stupendous and he is memorable—even when he emotes too much.

Iakov Kultiasov as Barbu is one of the most memorable movie roles I have ever seen. He had a formal background of circus life and then suddenly became an actor. He is able to change moods and outlooks quickly and plays his role with a charm unexpected to be seen in one so young.

Full of crime and excesses, the movie will make you sit up and notice. It is like looking through a window into the darkest regions of human nature and the brightest moments as reflected in Barbu’s eyes.

The cinematography is stunning and it goes where many others would not dare. The story will not leave you for a very long time. The brutality and the beauty of the movie are believable and sad. Everything is balanced perfectly and it all sits on a fragile and obvious hinge.

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