Movie About $100M Dutch Museum Heist in the Works

Romanian producer Tudor Giurgiu and photographer Cristian Movila are developing a film of one of the art world's biggest thefts.

MOSCOW – One of the art world's most dramatic heists, the theft of seven masterpieces worth more than $100 million from a Dutch museum last year, will be made into a movie by Romanian producer-director Tudor Giurgiu.

The crime at Rotterdam's Kunsthal Museum on Oct. 16 2012 shocked the art world.

Security footage released later by police showed six hooded and masked men slipping into the museum through a rear door and, in less than three minutes, making off with seven paintings by artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin.

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The daring raid led to speculation that the men were professionals stealing the masterpieces to repay a debt or ransom the paintings, all of which are so famous they couldn't be sold on the open market.

The truth was more prosaic: The men were from a small Romanian village, and it is believed that some of the works of art may have since been destroyed.

Giurgiu, whose second feature, Of Snails and Men, was based on another true story -- the privatization of a Romanian car factory that is turned into a snail cannery -- is working with photographer Cristian Movila to develop the art heist story for the big screen.

Movila's photographs illustrated a New York Times story in July, A Trail of Masterpieces and a Web of Lies, Leading to Anguish by Andrew Higgins, which outlined the extraordinary story of the theft.

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The article told the story of how a gang of thieves from a tiny Romanian village pulled off one of the biggest art heists in history and how one of the suspects' mothers became a key figure when she claimed to have burnt the paintings in a stove to protect her son.

"The topic has extraordinary potential," Movila said. "The visits to [the village], the discussions with those involved, the special atmosphere in the village -- all of that convinced me that there is enough material for a really special movie."

"It’s a fanciful story, but it’s also real. It’s a modern story involving centuries of history. What is the value of the artwork and how much does it vary according to the public who appreciates it? We all saw the paintings, priceless artworks worth millions, but how much is a Picasso really worth in the hands of a mother who thinks she is helping her son?"

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Giurgiu said producers from the U.K., the Netherlands and the U.S. had all expressed interest in collaborating on the project, which might be shot in English with an international cast.

"The subject sells itself, and it's an excellent excuse for an action movie that is different from most movies in this category," Giurgiu said. "The speed at which the theft occurred, the psychology and motivation of the thieves and the fact that they come from an isolated village mostly inhabited by the elderly, will give some specific color to a story with universal flavor."