The South Korean film “301, 302″ is easily the most bizarre movie I’ve seen in a while. I’m not sure if that’s a recommendation or a warning.
It’s a small movie, focusing on the relationship between two women, neighbors in apartments 301 and 302, and their strange relationships with food and each other. The woman in 302 is a writer who lives alone and cannot eat; in flashbacks we begin to see that her rejection of food comes from sexual abuse as a child. Her new neighbor, the woman in 301, is leaving a marriage in which her obsessions with food and sex directly led to the end of her marriage. In a friendly gesture, she takes a meticulously prepared meal to her neighbor… who not only can’t eat it but is sickened by the mere sight of the gourmet meal. Instead of being apologetic, the chef is determined to make the woman eat, even if she has to shove the food into her mouth. Aside from a few scenes of 301 shopping for produce at the market, the film takes place entirely in the two apartments and in flashbacks to 302’s childhood and 301’s failed marriage.
“301, 302″ is billed as “Two apartments. Two Women. One Shocking Mystery.” because one day the writer disappears. When a detective visits 301 to interview the chef, she shows him the food journal where she kept track of her many attempts to feed 302, and as they talk her memories slowly reveal her past, her neighbor’s past and ultimately what led up to the disappearance.
Food takes center stage in “301, 302,” because both women have made food symbolic of more than just nutrition. Almost the only thing that actually happens is cooking and eating, or not eating. I was left never wanting another Korean meal, a sensation that I hope will change as the truly twisted ending to the mystery fades from memory.