A documentary traces the difficult life of Björn Andrésen, the musician and actor who played the young Tadzio in ‘Death in Venice’
“Walk, stop, turn around and smile.” Luchino Visconti used just five words to direct Björn Andrésen, at that time a fifteen-year-old boy, unable to guess that the Tadzio he was going to give life in ‘Death in Venice’, the film with which the Italian filmmaker adapted a novel Short of Thomas Mann, it would change his life forever. Because that blond teenager, with gray eyes, a stylized figure and an androgynous appearance, was going to become the object of desire of the composer Gustav von Aschenbach and, therefore, an icon of masculine beauty and a myth adored around the world.
A documentary entitled ‘The most beautiful boy in the world’, available on Filmin, within the framework of the Atlàntida Film Fest that closed last night in Mallorca, covers the particular life of Andrésen, 66 years old. Directed by the Swedes Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri, the film reveals how all that exaggerated attention ended up taking its toll and how during all these years he has had to deal with his inner demons and various misfortunes that have shaken his life.
The feature film begins with the test to which the young man, whose greatest ambition was to be a musician, appeared in 1970, encouraged by his manipulative grandmother. The openly gay director had traveled through Hungary, Poland, Finland and Russia trying to find the face he was looking for for the film. Without success, he landed in Stockholm. And the casting director says that when the boy walked through the door, “Visconti’s whole body was activated.” We don’t see it because the camera only has eyes for a shy fifteen-year-old, who is made to parade and smile, and whose face shows perplexity when asked to remove his shirt. They did not leave an inch of his skin without photographing and the filmmaker, who soon coined the label of ‘the most beautiful boy in the world’, makes fun of it at press conferences.
Luchino Visconti and a member of his team scrutinize young Björn.
The sequence is uncomfortable, but only when one sees what situation Björn Andrésen lives in now, does one manage to see the consequences of all that overexposure. With long gray hair and a thick beard, Andrésen lives in an apartment in Stockholm that looks like the last refuge of a homeless person. The kitchen is oozing with grease, and his girlfriend Jessica is busy cleaning every corner, aware that the neighbors and the landlady have shouted to heaven. “He didn’t deserve to live like a man,” laments the actor, who recently appeared in Ari Aster’s exquisite ‘Midsommar’.
With some revealing archive images – they were filmed by Andrésen’s own grandmother, who accompanied the actor during the filming with a Super 8 and even had a small role in front of the cameras – the documentary reveals how it was a shoot in which Visconti was he ensured that the entire team was gay and forbade “no one to look Tadzio in the eye.”
When it premiered in Cannes, Andrésen recalls, “the circus began.” He was 16 years old and around him swarmed “a swarm of bats, they admired me, they absorbed me and that cannot be a good basis for your self-esteem”, he is sincere. With the movie finished, he remembers that they took him to a gay club and it seemed like hell. «It was all full of vicious looks, I felt like they were giving me blowjobs with my mind. I drank everything that fell into my hands just to silence it and I don’t remember how I got home.
The documentary takes its protagonist to Japan, where he had a fleeting career as a Japanese pop artist, as well as inspiring manga artists such as Riyoko Ikeda. But he also delves into the complicated relationship with his daughter, the disappearance of his mother or how he dealt with the death of his own son, on a night of excess.