Written and directed by Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri, in 1971, due to the world premiere of Death in Venice, Italian director Lucino Visconti proclaimed his Tadzio as the world’s most beautiful boy. A shadow that today, 50 years later, weighs Björn Andresen‘s life. Also starring: Annike Andresen, Silva Filmer, Riyoko Ikeda, Margareta Krantz, Ann Lagerström and Jessica Vennberg.
The first thing to note about this documentary is that you don’t need to have any knowledge of Björn Andresen or Death in Venice before diving in, it might add an extra layer of intrigue but it can easily stand on its own two legs for fresh eyed viewers. It’s genuinely surprising how quickly this film brings forth a sincere discomfort through the sheer vulnerability of Andresen during his audition for Death in Venice. Living in a society more aware and open about assault and harassment in the film industry, the footage is concerning, you want to jump out and protect this young man who’s suddenly asked to take his clothes off by a bunch of strangers. It sets the tone for the rest of the film, there’s a lingering darkness, a harrowing sadness and a moving story. It may not be new to explore the consequence of fame, especially for young actors but there’s nothing about this film that doesn’t feel fresh or original.
A good way to describe the journey that this film takes might be that it’s melancholic nostalgia, Andresen does feel as though he’s reflecting on his past not just re-treading it for new ears. It holds an intense sadness that continually grows throughout the film, even when you think his tale couldn’t hold any more sorrow, there’s still more to come. That may not sound like something you immediately want to devour but there’s a quality to that sadness that’s almost intoxicating, at certain points it almost leaves you agape by just how heart-breaking it is. There are infinite layers to Andresen, there’s not just how fame swept him up into a place he wasn’t ready for, there’s his relationship with his mother who abandoned him, his relationship with his own children and his partner, and more. It’s admirable how willing he was to be completely open about these extremely personal moments in his life, which makes the film all the more compelling.
Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri’s direction, mixed with Erik Vallsten’s cinematography create a stunning visual which deepens the emotions of this story. The quality of it keenly reflects the story it’s telling, it mostly stays extremely focused on the subjects but then in the sporadic moments it gets to widen the lens and play around more, it takes the opportunity to enrich its atmosphere. When you look at the film as a whole Andresen doesn’t actually speak that much, a lot of the shots simply hold on his look but you can so clearly feel his emotions, his struggle and as the film goes on, how complex his life has been. It’s also a bonus that it dips into Andresen’s appearance in Midsommar, for anyone who might not immediately connect the dots, he is the elderly gentleman atop the cliff in a particularly memorable moment.
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is a beautiful portrait of fame’s consequence and impact on the young and naïve but also on how our past trauma follows us through life. It’s incredible, atmospheric, affecting, open and poignant. Björn Andresen gives such a wonderfully honest look into his life that it’s mesmerising to watch in its intense sadness and vulnerability. It will repeatedly break your heart but you won’t be able to look away.