Visconti’s 1971 film Death in Venice is arguable the movie that has meant most to me. It opened up my world to Gustav Mahler and Thomas Mann. In the mid-eighties, Death in Venice ran as a weekend midnight feature in Delta Bio, an art cinema in the Copenhagen, and I must have seen it there at least a dozen times.
Frequently, I have thought about what happened to Björn Andrésen, the beautiful, androgynous adolescent who plays the role of Tadzio, with whom the film’s older protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach (played by Dirk Bogarde) becomes obsessed. After this appearance, he seemed, at least to me, to have had no career as an actor or artist.
So I was quite curious to watch The Most Beautiful Boy in the World, a 2021 documentary film about Björn Andrésen and the effects of fame thrust upon him when he appeared in Death in Venice. The documentary is shown at the 2021 edition of CPH:DOX.
I was disappointed. Despite doing some quasi modelling due to his iconic looks he does seem to have had much talent to bring him onwards to other important film roles. He was lucky to be chosen for the role in Death in Venice only because of his looks. Importantly, the film argues that he actually was very unlucky that this happened to him as it has affected the rest of his life in an unfortunate way.
The film have some very interesting footings from the recording of the Death in Venice movie and the time after this. But you should not watch it, if your primary reason for doing so would be the learn more about Björn Andrésen as Tadzio. There is little there about Björn Andrésen performance as Tadzio and his relation to Visconti. Obviously, the premise is that the role as Tadzio was a life changer for him, and it must have been. But through the film, Björn Andrésen rarely talks about this himself.
More the film seems to be about a man with an unhappy childhood. His mother committed suicide and his grandmother was very domineering. He never had a career within music, as he wanted, maybe because he did not have the talent or stamina to get one. He drifted into misuse, and in the film we meet him at a time where he is pretty miserable.
Björn Andrésen comes about as a good and sympathetic person who have had a tough life. But maybe this has very little to do with the Death in Venice, or maybe it has? The The Most Beautiful Boy in the World does not really answer the question.