I've given this a rating of 4 rather than 5 based on the DVD production, rather than on the film--which I'd rate a full 5. The image on disc needs cleaning up--spots and little jerks are sometimes distracting; and there are no helpful extras--a commentary at least would have been very helpful. But the subtitles are good and readable, and the movie itself is wonderful.
The story is grim enough in outline--a rebuffed lover spirals down into despair, and he spirals down into a society with no safety net. But the black and white countryside, the roadside gas station, the villages, the shack where the prostitute lives, all these are hauntingly photographed. And each character is a surprise, so that the film feels populated by a whole world of very real people, not 'written' characters. There are a couple of moments in the story that can break your heart--such as when the main character sends his little daughter away--but the film is not at all depressing; you feel moved, but also elated at the brilliance of the filmmaking--and maybe a little awestruck if, like me, you grew up in the US midwest and never suspected that out in the big world, people were making truly adult films back in the 1950s, films that are as rich and satisfying as a good novel. The concluding sequence opens the story up and gives it almost epic scope, as the character returns to the village he left, to find himself in the midst of an anti-government riot--though by now, the rioters' issues are meaningless to him.
I'm not enough of a film expert to compare this intelligently with Antonioni's later masterpiece, "L'Avventura" (which I've probably misspelled), except to say that if you love that film, you really must see this one; and, if you found that later film obscure and too slow-paced, give this one a try before deciding Antonioni isn't accessible. This one will really pull you in.