The Most Beautiful Boy in the World
What defines beauty? And what is its price? These are the questions at the heart of this documentary about an actor who became an instant screen icon.
The legendary Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti didn’t just want another actor to play Tadzio, the object of Dirk Bogarde’s Gustav von Aschenbach, in his sumptuous 1971 adaptation of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, he wanted the personification of beauty itself. And he found it in 15-year-old Swede Björn Andrésen. But the tsunami of attention that the casting attracted proved more than burdensome for the young star, whose life never quite recovered.
Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri’s documentary works on a variety of levels. It meets with Andrésen today. Still an occasional actor (some might recognise him as one of the elders in Midsomer), his life has been a rollercoaster ride that all too often spiralled downwards. They examine the huge cultural impact he had following his appearance in Visconti’s film – even reaching out to the world of Japanese manga, where his sailor boy image became iconic and much-copied. And then there is the footage of his casting, on the set of the film and the unending publicity tour that followed. It all adds up to a fascinating and often unsettling portrait of fame and society’s obsession with physical perfection.