Per Oscarsson did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes and NSFC, for portraying Pontus in Hunger
The nature of the story from the cursory glance suggests that Per Oscarsson's work could be one of that of quiet soul bearing, of a poor man. Well that's not at all the case, in fact if there was a performance I'd compare this to most swiftly would be Charlie Chaplin as the tramp. This is not just as both characters often wander streets in their existence, but rather the entirety of Oscarsson's work carries with it a similar energy. Now this isn't a silent film, nor is this a comedy, Oscarsson's performance though is one where he carries himself in a unique manner that crafts that idea of his Pontus, more than the average homeless man. This is rather Oscarsson's work crafts him as an eccentric within this situation, and in doing so makes this likely a far more captivating experience. This is strongly within Oscarsson's physicality within the role, which is simply wonderful. The way he even walks is with this near directionless. This as though even when he's walking in a straight line, it isn't quite assured fitting for a man who in many ways is aimless, or at least looking for the right path. This is brilliantly built within though his overall demeanor that attempts this type of erudite, as though he is a philosopher within this situation of his. Oscarsson keeping this not quite proper, yet very specifically measured manner. This with his frequent courteous removal of his hat that he uses as essentially a running gag through the frequency, and often questionable use. Oscarsson though presenting within that, even as it is enjoyable, also shows Pontus as in a sort of, well note quite denial, though in part an avoidance of his situation.
Oscarsson's performance I think is essential within the success of the film as without it I think it would be inescapable dourness, however Oscarsson portraying Pontus's methods of trying to exist in the state, adds the right degree of levity, while also informing the audience of his character. This as Oscarsson more than anything, in that energy within his work, presents the fortitude or at the very least the persistence of the man. This as he saunters around the street Oscarsson grants technically the aimlessness of the man at times, but also his desire to try to work things out. This with frequent stops at a pawn shop to try to make a minor bit of money for survival while also attempting to make it as a writer, or perhaps anything else. Oscarsson's movement really does two things. One is he is engaging if not entirely entertaining to watch within these movements. He though does this in a way that succeeds in the second part, which is successfully portray the state of the man as seemingly a fruitless endeavor. Another aspect with this duality is within the way Oscarsson speaks within his performance. Oscarsson is again fantastic in the off-beat yet still genuine way in which he realizes his manner. We are granted the sense of a writer's eccentricity in his moments of pondering to himself, where again he is actively enjoyable in the way he speaks these rambling, while also in these ramblings shows a mind moving towards shambles. Oscarsson making Pontus someone who is enjoyable to be with, while also conveying with it the honest reality of his situation.
Oscarsson carefully plays the moments interacting with others though, again with a sort spry manner in portraying a man as though he is acting as though he is in an entirely fine within his situation. He brings though, even within the kindness, as the film goes on a more hurried delivering, even still with a sense of optimism that crafts the sort of decay of his state. We see this as well in, what again feels a bit Tramp like, is when Pontus romances a wealthier woman in the city, although not all may be as it seems in terms of reality. Oscarsson delivers a charm within his awkwardness. This being in his sly smile, and again a demeanor that is unorthodox in a most engaging way. Again though Oscarsson creates the sense of the presentation against also the struggle the man is going through. There are changes in his expression that alludes to other thoughts as related to his difficulty even as he he speaks the sweet nothings of a proper poet. He never loses the sense of his state, even when he is out of it seemingly within the relationship, even if for a moment. I love that Oscarsson doesn't show this to be a facade as much as coping mechanism. This in portraying that his eagerness isn't false even if technically not entirely true due to the man's struggle.
Even when that potential romantic affair loses itself, due to the limits of the mind, Oscarsson delivers in the moment of a certain rejection the man dealing with it in his particular way, though with a greater sense of his vulnerability. Oscarsson finds honesty within the eccentricity, and manages to grant that levity, while also wholly revealing the soul of the situation. I think what are essential moments within this though are in the titular word of the film. This in Hunger, hunger after all is not something one can really place over on a facade, it is a real, and painful experience. Oscarsson in the moments of his character's struggle, powerfully, and bluntly shows this an aspect in which he cannot talk himself out of the pain essentially. This in a moment where he throws up from eating bad meat, Oscarsson is heartbreaking the moment of just blunt desperation that he portrays in the moment of strict suffering. His words only painted by pain of dealing with yet another hardship. We see the same when he is enjoying a meal again, this in the rush to indulge in the food, we are granted an honesty of his situation. Oscarsson showing in the moments of hunger, that really there's nothing man can do other than accept his situation in the moment. His near final moment of raging at the world, albeit briefly, is so well performed as again the man losing himself into the desperation in this mania, however again Oscarsson presents within a man who is trying so hard to keep it together. This is a brilliant performance by Per Oscarsson. This is as he carries the film in terms of its momentum, but also in crafting such genuine portrait of the man's state. This state of existing both in the present, and while also being lost in his own mind.