This news is about four years old, but it’s new to me, and let’s face it, it’s news about the availability of thirty to sixty year old films, so everything is really relative. All of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films are freely available streaming online.
If you love science fiction, you probably know of Tarkovsky because you know that Solaris with the once and future Mr. Amal Alamuddin was based on an even longer and drier Soviet film. You may have even pretended to have seen it, since Tarkovsky’s Solaris always tops the list of movies people like to claim they’ve seen but haven’t.
Tarkovsky himself is an interesting fellow. He came of age and made film during the heart of the Soviet era, when art was constructed self-consciously in the mold of Soviet social ideology. Most art of this period and place was absolute shit. Imagine what American literature or film would look like if the state had people who decided exactly what the themes of all art would be, and if they didn’t like it, you’d never get the opportunity to produce anything. Art speaks truth to power, and so when power controls truth, art is an empty facade.
But a few great artists emerged anyway, walking a tightrope and playing the game just well enough to create something worth seeing, while still threading the needle of state approval. Tarkovsky was one of those men. He managed to get out of the Soviet Union, making his final two films in exile. He died too young, at only 54. He died of incurable lung cancer suddenly, and at the exact same time that his wife did as well. This led to speculation that they’d been murdered, especially since doctors in the West said that the cancer could not have occurred naturally, and evidence emerged of KGB orders to kill the defecting filmmaker.
It’s done now. The years have passed, the evidence faded or lost, the perpetrators - well, given the current occupant of the Kremlin and his history, the perpetrators could be living quite well and still running things. So it goes.
The films are available on Open Culture at this link.