The Most Beautiful Boy in the World (15)
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World (15)
Director: Kristina Lindstrom, Kristian Petri
Runtime: 1h 33min
Cast: Björn Andrésen, Annike Andrésen, Silva Filmer, Riyoko Ikeda, Margareta Krantz, Ann Lagerström, Johanna Lidén, Robine Román, Masatoshi Sakai, Miriam Sambol, Hajime Sawatari, Max Seki, Jessica Vennberg
Synopsis: In 1970, filmmaker Luchino Visconti travelled throughout Europe looking for the perfect boy to personify absolute beauty in his adaptation for the screen of Thomas Mann’s ‘Death in Venice’. In Stockholm, he discovered Björn Andrésen, a shy 15-year-old teenager whom he brought to international fame overnight and led to spend a short but intense part of his turbulent youth between the Lido in Venice, London, the Cannes Film Festival and distant Japan. Fifty years after the premiere of ‘Death in Venice’, Björn takes us on a remarkable journey made of personal memories, cinema history, stardust and tragic events in what could be Bjorn’s last attempt for him to finally get his life back on track.
This film, written and directed by Kristina Lindstrom and Kristian Petri, appears fifty years after the premiere of Luchino Visconti’ s masterpiece, Death in Venice. Björn Andrésen, the former teen star who once embodied legendary character Tadzio in the film, takes us on a remarkable journey of personal memories, cinema history, stardust and tragedy in what could be his last attempt to finally get his life back on track.
As with Death in Venice, there is a sad, melancholy tone that pervades most of this documentary’s running time. Its lead has all the signs of a man suffering from clinical depression and when we first meet him he is about to be evicted from the squalid, verminous Stockholm apartment where he lives.
The years and emotional toil are immediately visible on his gaunt face, his long untamed hair, unrecognisable as the pre-teenage, idealised beauty of Tadzio, who Visconti called ‘the most beautiful boy in the world’ at the London premiere.
The film clearly illustrates what the effects of sudden fame can do to a young boy, especially one that had been objectified so specifically by his looks. He was idolized in Japan, introduced to record deals, and doted on by gay men – although he doesn’t describe any sexual events or abuse, just being paraded as a ‘trophy’. There is a particularly disturbing clip of a press conference in Cannes in which Visconti speaks to the French press and describes him solely as just a body.
The clip of his screen test for Death in Venice is unsettling, as the totally unaware Andresen – who was pushed by his maternal grandmother – arrives and is startled when asked to take his clothes off for a screen test. Visconti comes across as single-minded in pursuit of his own aesthetic and artistic goals.
Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice concerns an older man who becomes obsessed with a teenage boy, a child with idealised beauty. Mann’s description is of a boy with eyes “the colour of water” whose beauty was “as cold as a statue”.
Visconti was obsessed with achieving this. His direction, says Andresen, comprised “go, stop, turn around, smile”.
Fame was particularly lonely to Andresen because he and his sister had been abandoned by their mother, a bohemian single parent, at a very young age. He was left with a pushy grandmother who took him to an audition for the Visconti film role because she wanted him to become a star – but with a minimum of positive chaperoning.
Andrésen did go to drama school and has had a career in film and television with many varied roles, most recently as the High Priest in Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019), the only one featured in the documentary.
In incredibly intimate and painful scenes we follow him into an archive where he discovers that his mother’s body was found in woods in 1966 under unclear circumstances. He also had a failed marriage and lost a son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, for which he blames himself because he was drinking heavily and at the time didn’t feel he had the tools to be a father.
Björn Andrésen, the former teen star, who once embodied legendary character Tadzio that the camera loved in Visconti’s masterpiece, has lived a remarkable life of stardust and great personal tragedy, and The Most Beautiful Boy in the World reminds us of the ephemeral quality of physical beauty.
In cinemas and Dogwoof on demand
Images courtesy of : DOGWOOF