It's terrific to discover a treasure such as this. "Hunger" not only refers to the need for nourishment, but the yearning and lust for the finer things in life. Our main character is a man putting on appearances for the sake of social class acceptance or even love. Per Oscarsson plays this part to perfection as a dreamer grasping at air.
Take out the part where he goes with Gunnel to her flat and it would be a flawless masterpiece. No woman, much less a lady, would have gone anywhere near him - apart from being obviously mentally ill, he would have been putrid. Even by the standards of the time.
This compares favorably Charlie Chaplin's 'The Immigrant'. His tramp is not played for laughs, but something much bigger. He's crazy, but his moral sense makes him rise above the others in this film. Compassion. Unlike Chaplin, he can't take money from someone and not feel guilty. It reminded me of 'Pennies from Heaven', where dreams of glory meet the hard reality of his life. Hope is that thing with feathers.
I"m not sure why this film hasn't made any "top 10 films to see before you die" lists because it feels like one of those. The mood is a cross between Sartre's Nausea and Rowan Atkinson (Black Adder not Mr Bean!).
I don't feel the description of this film is quite accurate. It's an infuriating yet incredibly effective journey into pride and madness. It's not quite all insanity that dominates this character but incredible pride which leads him into to so many disasters. But it's hard to stop watching him. My one criticism is the part with the woman, I never understood her motivation and it was the only weak element of the film