In 1970, Björn Andrésen was just another skinny Swedish 15-year-old. In 1971, he was dubbed “the most beautiful boy in the world” by Italian director Luchino Visconti. Visconti had adapted Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice for the screen and cast Andrésen in the role of Tadzio, the object of Gustav von Aschenbach’s desire. And Andrésen fit the role beautifully: Lean and lanky with angular features and a mop of golden hair. He seemed to smolder when he looked at the camera. He also looked painfully uncomfortable. Such is fame for a teenager, and Andrésen didn’t care much for it. A London premiere of Death in Venice was followed by a trip to the Cannes Film Festival, then a tour through Japan. But Andrésen was not a trained actor, and his career simmered despite the fame. He’s still acting—he was in Midsommar in 2019—but Andrésen’s still trying to leave Death in Venice and his role of “the most beautiful boy” behind.
Documentarians Kristina Lindström and Kristina Petri affix themselves to the 66-year-old Andrésen—still skinny as a rail and with a magnificent mane of hair, now silver—watching as he navigates the far-reaching ripples of fame and exploitation. It’s not a pretty portrait: Andrésen lives a slovenly life, leeches of his girlfriends, and holds everyone at arm’s length. Though the doc is gorgeous to look at—cinematographer Erik Vallsten displays a keen eye—The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is a tedious treatment of a familiar story.
Now playing the Sundance Film Festival.