HOT DOCS FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! In 1971 director Lucino Visconti released Death In Venice, declaring his star 15-year-old Björn Andrésen is The Most Beautiful Boy in the World. Years later, Andrésen is fighting eviction from his apartment and looking back at the pinnacle he once presided from. Co-directors Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri’s documentary takes a panoptic look at the fame, idolization, and the repercussions of both through the eyes of one who was thrust from obscurity into the adoration of the world then left to reflect in its wake. The result is a moving meditation on what it is to matter to the masses as opposed to those near you.
It was his mother who left him in the care of his vivacious grandmother. We then cut to Visconti, a known gay communist with a cadre of servants, touring the globe in hopes of finding the right boy for a part in his next film, Death In Venice. That film depicts composer Gustav von Aschenbach who becomes fixated with a teenager. Mirroring those fictional events, Visconti plucks 15-year-old Andrésen from obscurity and gives him a leading role based on aesthetics.
Recalling the production, Andrésen says that Visconti only told him a total of four directions: “walk here, turn, look, stand here.” The film enjoyed a world premiere in London, which the queen attended, then a screening at Cannes. That is when things become a blur. At one point, Andrésen reflects on the premiere at Cannes, stating to his girlfriend Jessica Vennberg that he drank everything that was handed to him and that he didn’t even remember how he got back to his room… at 15.
“…a panoptic look at the fame, idolization, and the repercussions of both…”
The documentary establishes the cyclone of fame and insanity mixed with Andrésen’s naiveté and then picks up the pieces. What happened to his mother? Why were he and his sister left with their grandmother? After establishing fame at home and abroad, where does one go? The Most Beautiful Boy in the World isn’t the scathing read of the film machine you would expect. There are no real villains in the tale of Andrésen’s rise to global stardom and iconography. The tragedy lies somewhere along the way where people forgot that what they were exploiting was a person.
Lindström and Petri layout each moment on a human scale through the actor’s view and have him revisit the places where some of his greatest personal moments took place. During the film, we are treated to archival footage from the set that made Andrésen famous, along with moments where he reconnects with those from his past. It is here that the success of the film is found. We are not here for the salacious, sensational, or lurid. This is the story of an innocent that was declared remarkable only to pay the price for years to come.
The film ends with Andrésen on the same beach that he shot a film at, many years later. Poignant and sincere, The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is a candid look at the unpredictable nature of fame and fortune, along with its consequences.
"…layout each moment on a human scale through the actor's view..."