Tuesday, November 30

‘The most beautiful boy in the world’: Tadzio’s pain | Culture

The question of what Luchino Visconti saw in Björn Andrésen to label him as the most beautiful boy in the world is not just rhetoric. The astonishing documentary by Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri largely answers this question, as well as reconstructing without single culprits the terrifying experience of fame of a shy and withdrawn teenager. Andrésen was, indeed, a beauty from another planet. He was 15 years old when his grandmother pushed him to a casting in the center of Stockholm and was discovered there by Visconti, who had been studying Russian, Polish and Hungarian children for months for his version of Death in Venice.

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Visconti needed to find the angel of death in Thomas Mann’s novel, and Andrésen’s beauty was not just about perfect features. The story of a German musician, Gustav von Ashenbach – inspired by Mahler and Mann himself and played by Dirk Bogarde – who takes refuge in a decaying and twilight Venice, infected with cholera, when he discovers there an unattainable Polish teenager, Tadzio, It served the Italian filmmaker to once again challenge the world with his powerful refinement. “Absolute beauty exists, but everyone knows that looking at it head-on is looking at death,” Visconti said when talking about the film. The sophisticated aristocrat of northern Italy, communist and homosexual, the director who had elevated Helmut Berger, “the most handsome man in the universe”, as he coined Vogue, or Alain Delon himself, this yes, above any label, put the film industry at the feet of a frightened and captive child who began to feel observed and admired at all hours without understanding anything.

With substance-laden footage, the film uncovers what happened to Andrésen, who he was before Tadzio, and who he is today. Hidden behind a long gray hair, skinny and ungainly, Andrésen has grappled with dark family ghosts and a checkered career as a musician. Supporting actor in the terrifying Midsummer, by Ari Aster, today he speaks from a distance and without apparent excess of resentment about the film that “destroyed” his life and the media circus that suffered for it. The documentary becomes even more attractive when we discover how he became a mass idol in Japan, the first Westerner adored by thousands of young Japanese, drawn by traits that have even inspired an entire generation of manga artists.

Fifty years after Tadzio was born at that casting in Stockholm, this film as sad and fascinating as its protagonist goes beyond the terrible objectification that Björn Andrésen suffered by a cynical and abusive system to discover the tragic background of her beauty and leave on the table the chain of misfortunes of a life reduced to a lethal label.


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