I have been to the cinema…first time since covid started. I knew there had been made a documentary of Björn Andrésen – once a young boy who was called the most beautiful boy in the world. I was his age, back then in the 70’s, and how I loved him. Like a teenager can…His face, the serenity, sensitivity and the vulnerability in his eyes. But little did I know what really happened to him, how he was used and abused.
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is a 2021 documentary film about Björn Andrésen and the effects of fame thrust upon him when he appeared in Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film, Death in Venice. The movie was built on a novel by Thomas Mann. Andrésen was just 16 when the film was released, and he was an innocent and very shy boy, totally unprepared for instantly becoming an international celebrity. So, a timely documentary theme, because these things happen – over and over again.
The title of the film came from a remark that Visconti made about Andrésen at the premiere of Death in Venice in London, and that shadow still weighs upon Björn Andrésen’s life.
Björn Andrésen wanted to be a concert pianist – not a movie star at all. Throughout the movie we hear him playing the piano, his own compositions and pieces by famous composers such as Chopin and Rachmaninov.
He had no father, and his mother committed suicide before Björn reached his teens. So, he grew up with his grandparents, and as his grandmother wanted to have a movie star grandson, she had him listed for numerous auditions…Björn was a fragile and sweet boy, so of course he did what he was told. Then came the famous Visconti, to Stockholm – and found him. The casting process was filmed, and I cried when I saw how awkward the young boy was when told to take off his clothes and pose for the film director.
Nobody seemed to notice. Nobody helped him or looked after him – and he was just a child. He had no one to turn to. How does an innocent young boy handle screaming crowds and hysterical Japanese girls – without a parent or mentor? Nobody seemed to care. He was just pushed around, trapped in a written three – year contract on his face. In the documentary he silently says, that he just wanted to be somebody else and somewhere else.
It is a deeply moving film, a tragedy, a life not taken good care of, not given a chance. Björn is still today, at 66, in my eyes, strikingly and otherworldly beautiful, but as he says himself – what has that ever done to help him with his inner demons? Years of depression and drugs, a crashed marriage and a son dead. He has a daughter though, but he feels he failed her as well. ”Nothing matters”, he says… because he has lost so much that there is nothing left to lose. A broken man, but, he has got his faith – and he wouldn’t have been here today without it.
"Fun facts" - In the documentary we go with Björn to Italy and Japan to meet, among others, the famous manga artist Riyoko Ikeda. She is most famous for her series The Rose of Versailles. And she reveals that her drawing of the hero (Oscar Francois de Jarjayes) is totally built on Björn Andrésen. His visit to Japan after Death in Venice started an idol worship bigger than ever, and in fact he is supposed to be the model for most of the blonde manga heroes. Fair use. By This is a screenshot taken from an optical disc, television broadcast, web page, computer software or streaming media broadcast. Copyright Riyoko Ikeda.
I recommend you to see this movie. Not because he was a great teenage ”love” of mine and many youngsters in those days, but because it is a serenely and honestly made documentary that maintains its grip on the audience throughout the 11/2 hours. It openly shows parts of Björn’s turbulent life, but just as much as he is willing to reveal, and he is never trampled on. I feel this documentary was made with love and dignity. Thank you to the directors, Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri who made this a film to remember, and thank you Björn, for saying yes to make it come true. It is an important document of our times. May we learn something about child abuse, use and misuse, how it can destroy their whole life. Instead we must support and help our young realize their own dreams – not somebody else’s.
29 January, 2021, World Premiere, Sundance Film Festival, USA