Critique of the "Most Beautiful Boy in the World": a cautionary tale

Almost 30 years ago, I interviewed former child actor Bill Mumy, who was then about 40 years old. He had played Will Robinson in “Lost ...

Almost 30 years ago, I interviewed former child actor Bill Mumy, who was then about 40 years old. He had played Will Robinson in “Lost in Space” as a child and was now enjoying a prosperous and creative adult life. This has not often been the case for child actors. Quoting himself and Jodie Foster, he insisted that what made the difference for them was preparation – professional training from an early age.

Growing up, Bjorn Andresen wanted to be a musician and spent time singing and playing. But his real fate was something he couldn’t have prepared himself for: director Luchino Visconti chose him to play Tadzio, the delightful though inadvertently angel of death from Dirk Bogarde’s Aschenbach in the adaptation of Visconti from 1971 by Thomas Mann “Death in Venice.”

We meet Visconti at the start of this often haunting documentary directed by Kristina Lindstrom and Kristian Petri. In archive footage, Visconti visits Stockholm. He says he’s traveled all over Europe in search of a teenager who embodies the perfection of Mann’s vision. This pursuit would be considered very strange and possibly exploitable today.

Once he chose Bjorn – the audition reel in which he asks the 15-year-old band of the time is unsettling – he protected him on set. However, after the film’s premiere and the director’s proclamation that Bjorn was “the most beautiful boy in the world,” it seemed like no one could, let alone would, protect him.

Certainly not his grandmother, who, according to Andresen, “wanted fame for a grandchild”. Andresen is now in his sixties, with long hair and a beard that hides his face. He often wears sunglasses to hide Visconti’s once rhapsodized eyes. After Bjorn for about a year, the movie shows him continuing to act. He appears, memorably, in the 2019 film ” Environment “, although you would never associate Tadzio with this horror film without studying the credits. In discreet sequences, he unfolds his personal tragedies. He explores the disappearance of his beloved mother, recounts the death of one of his own children and makes a melancholy return to Tokyo, where, after “Death”, he rose to pop music stardom.

This is where his “bishonen” (a Japanese word for the quality of a young man with androgynous beauty) was a runaway cultural sensation. Bjorn / Tadzio’s face and hair, or a slight variation of it, is seen in manga and anime to this day.

Andresen’s determination to overcome misfortune and his hopes for himself make this film less than an utter tragedy. But it’s often a warning that thrills you.

The most beautiful boy in the world
Unclassified. In English, Swedish and Japanese with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Critique of the "Most Beautiful Boy in the World": a cautionary tale
Critique of the "Most Beautiful Boy in the World": a cautionary tale
Newsrust - US Top News
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