Russian Ark is an enigma of a film; a poetic, time-bending artistic look through history. I finished watching the film mere days ago and I'm still formulating my own theories over what it's actually about. However there's one thing that wasn't up for debate upon finishing the mesmerising 100 minutes, and that was how well the cinematography managed to capture the pure romanticism of the 19th century.

Filmed all in a single take over a single day (and with none of that editing trickery found in other "single take" films such as Rope or Silent House) Russian Ark glides effortlessly from scene to scene seamlessly. Transitioning in-camera from an 19th century theatre play to a modern day tourist museum separated only by a door takes masterful, impeccable filmmaking technique - yet Russian Ark makes it seem so easy.

Russian Ark wasn't going to be the subject of this article initially, but as soon as the credits rolled I knew that this film needed to be talked about. While cinephiles are probably reading this and feeling smug about having seen the movie since its release in 2002, they kind of have a right to. This unconventional gem is dripping with character and atmosphere and the classic décor of the Winter Palace is suitably epic yet surprisingly intimate. Each room manages to have its own story and personality layered into the images; a war torn wing is desolate and washed out, hued with an alien blue compared to a lavish, warm Victorian ball drenched in vivid colour. Each time-period manages to have their own little intricacies and details which keeps things visually interesting. Small visual flairs such as a subtle change to a colder, more isolating light set-up in certain rooms makes for a more engaging and exciting art style overall. It's hard enough for films that shoot for 100 days to get this right, and yes, while Russian Ark is helped (like every film) by post-production the fact that a lot of these changes were done on-set makes the finished film feel just that bit more accomplished.

The breadth of variety in the locations is what keeps Russian Ark from meandering. While yes, most of it is set in the 1800s, the film still manages to show these familiar settings in different ways from different characters' viewpoints. The massive romantic rooms are full of evocative details that nicely complements the in-narrative debates over famous works of art. The characters come up with their own interpretations of these works, encouraging the audience to do the same about this picture. As the unseen narrator and his mysterious, Gothic companion "The European" travel through the palace interacting with Russian historical figures and events either directly - or through the retrospective point of art - there's a real heritage and weight to Russian Ark. It works equally both as a celebration of historical culture as well a critique of it.

While soaring through the Winter Palace, Russian Ark is at its best silently following characters around, lost in their own worlds. The camera work is elegant with smart framing and smooth movement, perfectly capturing the grand whimsy found in the narrative. It's hard to think of the most striking or visually important scene in the film - hell, I'd have an equally hard time picking out my favourite frame from the film. Russian Ark, brilliantly, looks equally as good when it's moving as it does when it's still. When the film does pause, it creates some of most striking images photographed in cinema. When it moves, Russian Ark is magnetic, energetic and completely awe-inspiring, establishing its own unique visual language, its own waltz in its movement. All these techniques culminate in a perfectly realised and hypnotic final dance sequence that captures the entire essence of Russian Ark and serves as a boastful tour-de-force of innovative film aesthetic.

In my last article, I heralded The Grand Budapest Hotel as being one of the only recent films to perfectly combine visual aesthetics with narrative themes - until then I hadn't seen Russian Ark. The picture does all of that and more, assuredly understanding that interpretation is inherently a major part of art in general. Russian Ark can be interpreted any way the audience wants: a critique of current popular society, the need for historical knowledge, the rejection of history, a personal self-discovery journey - anything.

When writing this article I didn't want a film that was as expertly executed The Grand Budapest Hotel, but this movie had such an impact and left such a poignant resonance that I absolutely had to make it the centre of my next feature. It's hard to fully describe and do Russian Ark justice in text; it is an anomaly of a film that doesn't comfortably fit into any genre or category. It's an art film in the purest sense. Russian Ark is grand, intimate, romantic, classical and post-modern - combining so many different art movements into one fluid masterpiece of visual aesthetic and technique.