The Most Beautiful Boy in the World
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World examines the life of Björn Andrésen, who was thrust into international stardom from total obscurity at the age of 15, when he appeared in Luchino Visconti’s 1971 feature Death in Venice. Now an old man, Björn must come to terms with the impact the production had on his life and his relationships with other people.
The feature thoroughly and expertly explores the child star’s rise to fame, mixing archival footage and interviews to present a comprehensive and excruciatingly uncompromising picture of the ways in which this young boy was exploited and commodified. At times, it’s shot more like a horror than a documentary, with Björn’s present-day dingy apartment contrasting heavily against the glitz and glam of Hollywood, and the decaying original recordings reflecting the dark underbelly of the movie industry.
Importantly though, this picture takes a lot of time to focus on Björn as a person rather than as an image. While the impact of his role in Death in Venice on culture as a whole is explored – particularly through a Japanese cultural lens – the piece is careful not to commodify the subject in its examinations of his commodification, and the aging actor is given the space to claim his narrative as his own. While not every chapter of his life is given screen time, the film nevertheless hits a lot of important beats that serve to paint a tragic and deeply personal story, warts and all.
However, it’s not all tragedy, and the documentary uses the uncaring juggernaut of Hollywood as a backdrop to contrast against the moments of genuine human tenderness and love that Björn gets to experience in his later years, showing the process of healing as well as the harm done. Björn is not a tragedy, or an object; rather, he is a human, and the work explores the tough but essential process of rediscovering his humanity and reclaiming his agency.
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is a harrowing and uncomfortable watch, but an engaging and enlightening one too, exposing the ugliest and most predatory mechanisms of the film industry’s unceasing machine. Importantly, it is a story about humanity as much as it is about dehumanisation, and about love as much as it is about objectification.
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is released in select cinemas on 30th July 2021.
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Watch the trailer for The Most Beautiful Boy in the World here: