4 user 2 critic

King of Thieves (2003)

König der Diebe (original title)
| Drama | 2003 (Austria)
Two amateur circus kids from a poor Ukrainian village, ten-year-old Barbu and his older sister Mimma, are sold to a circus artist called Caruso who promises them a career in the West. ... See full summary »


Ivan Fíla


Ivan Fíla (screenplay)
5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Lazar Ristovski ... Caruso
Iakov Kultiasov Iakov Kultiasov ... Barbu (as Yasha Kultiasov)
Katharina Thalbach ... Julie
Julia Khanverdieva Julia Khanverdieva ... Mimma
Oktay Özdemir Oktay Özdemir ... Marcel
Paulus Manker ... Kardinal
Birol Ünel ... Birol
Imogen Kogge Imogen Kogge ... Polizisti
Yasemin Bueyueksapci Yasemin Bueyueksapci ... Bianca (as Yasemin Büyüksapci)
Manfred Witt Manfred Witt ... Dimo
Viktor Benzler Viktor Benzler ... Barbus Vater
Axel Neumann Axel Neumann ... Pokerspieler
Motamedi Motamedi ... Ali
Lucia Adyova Lucia Adyova ... Kinder bei Caruso (as Lucia Ádyová)
Petra Hackova Petra Hackova ... Kinder bei Caruso (as Petra Hácková)
Learn more

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Two amateur circus kids from a poor Ukrainian village, ten-year-old Barbu and his older sister Mimma, are sold to a circus artist called Caruso who promises them a career in the West. Caruso smuggles them to Berlin and separates them from each other. Mimma is sold to prostitution, while Barbu is taught to snatch purses together with an older Albanian boy Marcel. Barbu finds out about Mimma's fate and decides to free her from the brothel. Written by Markku Kuoppamäki

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Did You Know?


The actress who plays Julie in the flashback sequences looks remarkably similar to the older Julie because the two actresses are in fact related. Anna Thalbach is the daughter of Katharina Thalbach. See more »


Love Me
Lyrics by 'Ladislav Faktor'
Performed by Ivana Christová
See more »

User Reviews

Why set a lower score than 10
23 October 2006 | by cmmescalonaSee all my reviews

There are few films that deserve 10 out of 10. Maybe, sometimes, there should be a "remarkable" 10 for a vote.

This film, definitely, deserves the best. Many reasons are the ones that make a film outstanding.

All ingredients must have a delicate amount of perfection to make a film plausible, moving, entertaining, realistic (if its not an openly fictitious work), creative, timeless and memorable.

Ivan Fila, as many Czech filmmakers, knows the hardships of life firsthand. No one can tell him what happened in 1989 and the myriad options that emerged from a new situation when the Czech world crumbled. The realities after communism, became sour, incredibly hard and completely new for all the peoples behind the Iron Wall.

At least form my experience, most of the films made since 1989 in the Czech Republic are full of reminiscences of a world you can't forget. The subject matter is usually really strong. Even by Central Europe standards, some depictions are, to say the least, unnerving.

Here, the beauty of the characters and the opposing sides of darkness and light, sweetness and sourness, good and evil, joy and sadness, hope and despair, are depicted in a masterful way.

The creative process involved in production needed what could amount to a big-budget American film. But many actors were new on screen. Most of them may be seen just once, and the chance is just in this film. So, the money and the power of creating atmospheres and places that could tell the story as it was written, was done with limited resources, used to their limits.

There's a sense of joy and doom from the very start. Creepiness is the word that best describes Caruso, the main character which plays a role essential to the whole story. The acting is superb. Some people would object saying that the acting is a bit over the top. But the character demands this kind of silliness and cruelty together to make him believable. The life Ristovski gave to Caruso is memorable.

As for Iakov Kultiasov, who embodies the súper-petite Barbu is, nonetheless, superior to any other character. A child with formal education on circus, turned actor overnight. He did a superb job. His demeanor can change from the most exhilarating sense of freedom, to the most somber and frenzied child.

As noted before in another comment, this film delves in the world of the Underground. Full of crime and scenes that will melt or stop your heart, it works just like a window open to the darkest pits of human nature and the brightest moments brought by the innocence in Barbu's eyes.

Cinematographically, there are ingredients that even the top of the tops in commercial cinematography will recognise as thorough perfection: lighting is never obvious, with the exceptions of some dream-sequences; steadicam use is effective and powerful, never intruding in the story-telling; night shots are masterful, without the typical super-strong blue lights, darkness is attained with all its inherent graininess and takes the darkest moments to their limit (look at a shot in a van with Barbu in the boot). Yes, as cinematography goes, in this film, it goes to where many cinematographers don't want to go: available light, cramped quarters, open public spaces, hundreds of moving objects, et cetera.

The story will linger with you, maybe forever. This is not a film to be forgotten. It IS brutal. It IS believable. It IS sad. But it IS a masterpiece.

Music, garments, locations and situations were chosen to make this film as alive as possible. You get acquainted with every character. Katharina Tallbach plays a character, Julie, that gives this film it's counterpoint to Caruso. A masterfully balanced act that is set on a hinge fragile and obvious, but works with subtlety and grace. And so it goes for Oktay Özdemir who plays Marcel. It's impossible not to take sides with EVERY character. Sometimes, you find out that you have taken both sides with one of them! I would not recommend watching this film with children, I'd rather say it's an adult film, and even any adult with conscience will cringe sometimes.

If you want to experience what I've already said, please watch this film and drop me a line. My students and myself will appreciate it.

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German | Ukrainian

Release Date:

2003 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

El rey de los ladrones See more »

Filming Locations:

Berlin, Germany See more »


Box Office


DEM9,250,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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