Free Online: Watch Stalker, Solaris, Mirror, and Other Masterworks by Soviet Auteur Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky under­stood cin­e­ma in a way no film­mak­er had before — and, quite pos­si­bly, in a way no film­mak­er has since. That impres­sion is rein­forced by any of his films, five of which are avail­able to watch free on Youtube. You’ll find them on the Youtube chan­nel of Mos­film, which was once the Sovi­et Union’s biggest film stu­dio. It was for Mos­film that Tarkovsky direct­ed his debut fea­ture Ivan’s Child­hood in 1962. Based on a folk­loric war sto­ry by Sovi­et writer Vladimir Bogo­molov, the film had already been made by anoth­er young direc­tor but reject­ed by the stu­dio. Tarkovsky’s ver­sion both sat­is­fied the high­er-ups and, with its inter­na­tion­al suc­cess, intro­duced the world to his own dis­tinc­tive cin­e­mat­ic vision.

“My dis­cov­ery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a mir­a­cle. Sud­den­ly, I found myself stand­ing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, nev­er been giv­en to me.” These are the words of Ing­mar Bergman, to whom Tarkovsky would much lat­er pay trib­ute with his final film, The Sac­ri­fice, pro­duced in Bergman’s home­land of Swe­den.

But in between these films would come five oth­ers, each wide­ly con­sid­ered a mas­ter­work in its own way. Andrei Rublev offers a Tarkovskian view of the fif­teenth-cen­tu­ry Rus­sia inhab­it­ed by the epony­mous icon painter. Solaris adapts Stanis­law Lem’s sci­ence-fic­tion nov­el of a sen­tient plan­et and its psy­cho­log­i­cal manip­u­la­tion of cos­mo­nauts onboard a near­by space sta­tion.

It was with 1975’s Mir­ror that Tarkovsky turned inward. Draw­ing as deeply as pos­si­ble from the artis­tic poten­tial of his medi­um, he cre­at­ed a cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence rich with mem­o­ry, his­to­ry, real­i­ty, and dreams — a kind of “poet­ry” in cin­e­ma, as one often hears his work described. The result­ing break with many of the con­ven­tions and expec­ta­tions attached to motion pic­tures at the time polar­ized crit­i­cal and pop­u­lar reac­tion. But the inter­ven­ing 47 years have ven­er­at­ed Tarkovsky’s artis­tic brazen­ness: in Sight & Sound’s most recent 100 Great­est Films of All Time poll, Mir­ror came in at num­ber nine­teen, sev­en places high­er than Andrei Rublev.

Despite hav­ing come in three spots below Andrei Rublev on the Sight & Sound poll, 1979’s Stalk­er is to many Tarkovsky fans far and away the auteur’s great­est achieve­ment. Its appar­ent­ly lin­ear, vague­ly sci­ence-fic­tion­al nar­ra­tive presents a jour­ney into “the Zone,” a mys­te­ri­ous region con­tain­ing a room that grants the wish­es of all who enter it. This sim­plis­tic-sound­ing premise belies a film of infi­nite depth: “I’ve seen Stalk­er more times than any film except The Great Escape,” writes Geoff Dyer (who once devot­ed an entire book to the for­mer). “It’s nev­er quite as I remem­ber. Like the Zone, it’s always chang­ing.” We watch Stalk­er — or indeed, any­thing in Tarkovsky oeu­vre — not to see a movie, but to see “the rea­son cin­e­ma was invent­ed.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Very First Films: Three Stu­dent Films, 1956–1960

The Sto­ry of Stalk­er, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Trou­bled (and Even Dead­ly) Sci-Fi Mas­ter­piece

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Shot by Shot: A 22-Minute Break­down of the Director’s Film­mak­ing

The Poet­ic Har­mo­ny of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Film­mak­ing: A Video Essay

What Andrei Tarkovsky’s Most Noto­ri­ous Scene Tells Us About Time Dur­ing the Pan­dem­ic: A Video Essay

Slavoj Žižek Explains the Artistry of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films: Solaris, Stalk­er & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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