The Most Beautiful Boy in the World | Documentary

In 1969, the 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.” One year later he discovered Björn Andrésen, a shy 15-year-old Swedish teenager, who he brought to international fame overnight, and led to Andrésen spending a short but intense part of his turbulent youth between the Lido in Venice, London, the Cannes Film Festival and Japan. This is the story of a boy who was thrust to international stardom for his iconic looks and lived a life of glamour. 50 years later, Björn looks back.

While it may appear a familiar story of yet another ill-fated child star, the truth is that Andrésen’s involvement felt wrong from the start. Visconti famously searched the continent to find a boy beautiful enough for the role of Tadzio, eventually discovering the teenage Andrésen in a rundown corner of Stolkholm. As the film’s fatal object of desire, who spends the majority of the film batting his eyelashes across the Venice Lido at Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde), Andrésen became inseparable from the role in the eyes of the world.

From that point, things steadily went downhill. Despite his impact in Japan, where the film was an enormous hit and led to the creation of a new character trope within anime of young effeminate men known as Bishōnen, Andrésen struggled to be heard. The interest from Hollywood directors extended no further than his looks and he was constantly the subject of unwanted attention wherever he went.

Five decades later Andresen is living in squalor in a small apartment in Stockholm.

In the documentary, the filmmakers follow him as he discussed his memories of making the film and being exposed to celebrity at a young age, and he goes on a journey to slowly unravel the events of his life that caused him years of depression and mental health issues.

The Swedish film, directed by Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri, premiered in Sundance in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

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