8 1/2 remains one of the most original and spellbinding films I know of. One of the beauties of cinema is to merge the artist's memory and fantasy; Fellini certainly utilized this magic to present his story and characters that embody both humanity and mystery. This film is an autobiographical piece (of Fellini himself) about a movie director named Guido, how his life is consumed by his increasing obsession with work. He avoids questions and problems as if they will go away somehow, only to experience more questions and problems. Ultimately, Guido realizes the only way to solve his problems is to face them rather than escaping, accepting himself instead of wishing he was someone else.
The opening sequence--one of the most deftly crafted--is taken from Guido's movie (or his dream - can't remember for sure). The sequence brilliantly captures Guido's problems (which are dealt with in the rest of the picture) and exposes them metaphorically: him STUCK in traffic, TRAPPED in smoke, SUFFOCATING, wanting to escape, and pulled back down by his peers. Guido wants to make a movie about his (and Fellini's) MEMORIES: how once upon a time he learned about a chant that moves pictures, and the time he danced with the fat feminine prostitute figure. The other main component of his movie involves launching into space, a FANTASY that reflects Guido's (and Fellini's) desire to escape from worldly matters. In real life, Guido is having problems with everything from his wife to his movie. So he thinks a beautiful actress, whom he fantasizes but knows little to nothing about, will be the solution to all his problems. When Guido meets the actress, he realizes she can't solve his problems, only he himself has the choice. This realization leads to the film's closure, with Guido having learned what's important to him and the inevitability of taking responsibility.
One of the film's powerful features is ambiguously blending Guido's world with his imaginations. Thus the audience is constantly deciphering the context of what's on the screen. This invitation to participate in the film is welcome, and if we think about it, a person like Guido who lives in his office might not be able to tell at times whether an event happened in his life or inside his mind.