Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director, is suffering from the "director's block". Despite Anselmi declaring that this movie should be an easy one to make, he is having problems with his artistic vision, and in particular he does not want to tell lies on the screen. He’s blocked when shooting his new science fiction film, including some veiled autobiographical references, and he has lost interest amid artistic and marital difficulties. As Guido struggles half-heartedly to work on the film, a series of flashbacks and dreams delve into his memories and fantasies; they are frequently interwoven with reality. He is trying to relax in a spa after scoring success for his last film. He can't really have peace, however, as the people who have worked with him in the past are constantly asking for more work to do. He wrestles with his conscience but is unable to come up with a new idea. While thinking, he starts to recall the major events of his life, and all the women he has loved and then abandoned. He’s a lot of stress, both at professional and personal level. As he works through these problems in the spa, and he thinks over his childhood. Both at the spa and/or on a film set he’s surrounded by many real people he’ll portray on screen, including his wife Luisa – he loves her but he does not fully understand their marriage - his mistress Carla, the antithesis of Luisa, and an actress named Claudia who, in his opinion, will be his ultimate salvation.