Last Year at Marienbad is one of Alain Resnais' most well regarded works. The other films he is known for are Night and Fog and Hiroshima Mon Amour. Resnais and this film are considered important parts of the French New Wave movement. However, he and his work are considered part of the “Left Bank” school of the New Wave.
There is an obvious difference between this film and the New Wave films of Jean-Luc Goddard and François Truffaut. This film is not obsessed with low-level criminals, America, and American films the way Breathless and Shoot the Piano Player are. The shot selection in this film is more formal, the editing is more slowly paced, and the setting is much more ornate. This film has a dreamlike quality and is even more surreal than most other New Wave films. It also deals with time and meditates on life and love.
The film is a puzzle. A man (Giorgio Albertazzi) meets a woman (Delphine Seyrig) at an opulent hotel. His name is never given (he is credited only as X) and neither is hers (she is credited as A). He tells her she must have been waiting for him, but she does not seem to recognize him. He insists that they met a year earlier at a garden. She still does not recall and he proceeds to tell her the whole story of their affair the year before at the same hotel. They met repeatedly; they did not ever plan it, they simply ran into each other. The more they saw of each other the more in love with her he was. She was more wary, but also seemed to reciprocate his feelings.
Then one night he entered her hotel room. And many things could have happened. He may have raped her. He may have saved her from being raped by another man (Sasha Pitoeff), who is also never named. The other man may be her husband, her chaperone, or her lover (he is credited only as M). The other man may have shot her or him after catching them together.
On the last night of their vacations X and A were supposed to leave together. However, A changed her mind. Maybe she did not want to leave M yet, maybe she feared X, maybe she feared what M would do. Nevertheless, she told X to wait another year and then she would go away with him.