Fire of Love
I write often about how one of the most amazing aspects of the cinema is its ability to transport viewers to a specific time and place; to allow them to be someone they will never be in their lifetime. The documentary Fire of Love (94 minutes, without the end credits) is a remarkable example of that, placing its audience in the figurative shoes of two people who risked their lives following their passion.
It is the story of married volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft, who spent nearly thirty years together chasing one dangerous eruption after another. The movie is made up of footage they shot during their many trips to study various volcanoes across the world. Maurice was a geologist, Katia a chemist. They were both absolutely fascinated by volcanoes. Director/cowriter/producer Sara Dosa has done an incredible job assembling hundreds of hours of footage into a narrative about this couple, volcanoes, their love for each other/the pursuit they fully committed themselves to, the earth and humanity itself. It is a beautiful film.
Fire of Love spends very little time talking about the Kraffts outside of their profession. Maybe because they didn’t really exist outside of their profession. This seems to be a case where what they did truly was who they were. The shots of them gazing longingly at rocks falling to the ground, ash floating in the air and lava flowing down a mountainside confirms as much. There are some scenes of them at home (or in their office, it is kind of hard to tell) or doing interviews, but it is mostly footage of them walking inside a volcano, doing research and marveling at what few people get to see with their own eyes.
While we don’t get to see it with our own eyes, getting to see it through the Kraffts camera is breathtaking in its own right. The movie does contain narration (from actress/writer/director/artist Miranda July) and audio of the Kraffts, yet the most enthralling passages are the ones without dialogue, where we watch as they do their work. Though I have never thought about volcanoes as a thing of beauty before, it is difficult not to be drawn in by the wonder and respect the Kraffts have for their subject. The greatness and terribleness of the world around us is on full display. Volcanoes don’t think or feel; they just do what is in their nature. Watching it, the feeling of how immense the earth is compared to the creatures who inhabit it was overwhelming.
The Kraffts’ story is kept simple. They met, fell in love (probably over the shared interest that dominated their lives) and dedicated as much time as possible to travelling the world, visiting erupting volcanoes. They chose not to have children and there is barely any mention of either of their families. Perhaps they did not prioritize family. Certainly, it was not where their hearts lay. At one point, Maurice says that when he is not at a volcano, he wishes he were. It is quite powerful to watch two people doing the only thing they ever wanted to do, with the only person they ever wanted to do it with.
Mountaineer George Mallory, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, was quoted as replying “Because it’s there.” It was similar for the Kraffts. However, they did it not to hold dominion over a volcano, but to see it, record it and appreciate that they, of everyone who ever lived, got to be in that spot, at that moment. Thanks to Fire of Love, viewers get to share in that feeling. And it is spectacular.
5 out of 5
Narrated by Miranda July
Directed by Sara Dosa
Written by Shane Boris, Erin Casper, Jocelyne Chaput and Sara Dosa