Björn Andrésen was a fifteen-year old Swedish teenager who was plucked from obscurity to star in filmmaker Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film ‘Death in Venice.’ The new fascinating documentary ’The Most Beautiful Boy in the World’ tells Andrésen’s meteoric rise to stardom and, 50 years later, his life in his older years which is a far cry from the red carpets and film premieres of his youth.
In 1970 filmmaker Visconti travelled throughout Europe looking for the perfect boy to personify absolute beauty in his adaptation for the screen of ‘Death in Venice.’ In Stockholm, he discovered shy 15 year old Andrésen. Actual footage of Visconti (who was openly gay) shows how mesmerized Visconti was when he initially saw Andrésen at an open casting call, and how young and timid, and disturbed Andrésen was at that time – he was a child when his mother was found dead in a field, leaving him and his sister to be raised by their grandmother. And when Andrésen was actually cast in ‘Death in Venice,’ his grandmother practically released him into the care of Visconti, who whisked Andrésen off to film the movie in Venice, and then to premieres, red carpets and parties galore, displaying him like a trophy, to the envy of Visconti’s gay friends, and with what seems not a care about Andrésen’s future or welfare.
Fast forward to present day and Andrésen is living in a filthy flat in an industrial block in Stockholm, and is in his mid-60’s (he looks a lot older), and doesn’t quite have it all together. His girlfriend at that time helps him clean up his flat before a visit by the council, who are concerned that Andrésen is leaving the gas on. But we learn more tragedy Andrésen has faced in his lifetime; he lost a baby son to sudden infant death syndrome which sent him into a long depression, and which it appears he never really got over.
Fifty years after the premiere of ‘Death in Venice’, directors and writers Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri take us on Anderson’s remarkable journey of his life – a life of cinema history, stardust and tragedy.
‘The Most Beautiful Boy in the World’ is released in UK / Irish cinemas 30th July.
Review by Tim Baros