Review of Zanne Aglio’s Livealoner Feeding
Livealoner Feeding (2020). 6min 30sec. Directed by Zanne Aglio.
“Cottagecore” has not only become a buzzword of life during COVID, but, once we are able to look back at social distancing, hand sanitizer, and face masks as things of the past, it will be remembered as the aesthetic of the pandemic. Underlying our lives is the desire to make one’s home a space where work, family, sports, hobbies, and mental health are (re-)negotiated—a place that for so many has been experienced differently and for a longer time than ever before during the pandemic. This space is supposed to provide comfort and coziness, but also excitement.
Many have turned to new hobbies to cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic, with all of us missing the diversions we’d taken for granted, like meeting friends, going out dancing, attending concerts, or having coffee in the shop around the corner. Now, people make their home lives more to their liking by incorporating hobbies like painting, knitting, embroidery, crafting, doing puzzles, cooking, and baking. Baking in particular has come to be one of the most sought-after pastimes. Social media timelines are filled with forays into baking cookies, elaborate birthday cakes and banana bread. Or sourdough bread. Or just bread. So much bread.
Into this new baking-obsessed sphere comes Livealoner Feeding. Director Zanne Aglio’s short gives us a glimpse into the process of baking—from tedious chores like cleaning utensils up until the satisfying first taste of a self-made loaf of bread. Livealoner Feeding features no dialogue, contains only three static shots, shows no faces, and feels like it is over before it has even begun. Still, the three-act structure is intact, and, despite the choice of reduced setting, the film’s storyline is there all the same: 1. Doing the dishes, 2. Setting the table, 3. Eating and drinking. Inspired by Marjorie Hillis in How to Live Alone and Like It (1936), the film looks at the state of “livealoner”—the lived experience of 21st century women in late-capitalist society. In 2021, with the pandemic firmly in place, we know that this “livealoner” experience is inextricably linked with cottagecore at this specific moment in time.
It is hard to pin down what cottagecore is really supposed to be or look like in the end, but we know there are certain emotions that come with it. It isn’t something that just falls into place but instead requires work. In Livealoner Feeding,this means to clean the dishes and the countertop or to light a candle to give your home a specific scent—tasks that the audience is able to witness in the short. Then there is everything we are not shown but are still aware needs to be done to get to the end result: cooking tea, buying applesauce, and, above all, making bread—a task to eventually master to satisfaction.
Aglio relies on speaking to our senses in bringing across the different aspects that are essential to cottagecore. Livealoner Feeding is, despite its lack of dialogue, a noisy film: the clanging of baking utensils, slurping tea, lightning matches, cups slammed on the counter constantly. For other senses like smelling and tasting, we have to rely on our imagination, but we are very much incited to do so by what we are presented in the short: what brand of tea is the protagonist drinking? What does the candle smell like? Vanilla, fir tree, citrus? Is the bread still warm?
This is the essence of Livealoner Feeding. It makes us long for a comfy home with a vanilla scent, the sensation of warm tea running down our throat, and the smell of freshly baked, fluffy bread with a crunchy crust. At the same time, it shows us that it takes work to get to this desired place. Bread isn’t baking itself, the dishes don’t do themselves and maybe, just maybe, a slice of freshly baked bread spread with applesauce tastes even better due to the work that came with it. Livealoner Feeding shows us that cottagecore can be desirable, however hard-earned. Maybe it is not just an aesthetic but a way of life, a mental health support and, quite simply, an emotional journey.