Fire of Love
2022, PG, 97 min. Directed by Sara Dosa. Narrated by Miranda July.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., July 29, 2022
There is a sensual nature to flows of lava and entwining molten rock that I had not considered prior to Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love. Sure, erupting volcanoes recall a certain, ah, erotic release, but the languid dance of this glowing, smoldering living earth evokes a kind of primordial lover’s embrace. Or perhaps it’s just the mood set by this documentary, a love story of two French volcanologists and the devoted passion they shared for their work and each other.
Katia and Maurice Krafft were both eminent scientists who rose to prominence in the late Sixties and early Seventies for their skill in capturing footage of active volcanoes, getting as close as possible to the mouth of these fiery mountains. They wrote books, released films, and their archive contains hundreds of hours of footage and thousands of images. They were also interviewed extensively: The novelty of husband-and-wife geologists chasing active volcanoes across the globe coupled with the scientific community at long last embracing plate tectonic theory kindled the public’s fascination. It is a considerable amount of material to shape a narrative from, and Dosa and her editors artfully interlace their dangerous and often life-threatening adventures with letters and diary entries that reveal the couple’s more intimate bonds, enriched by a Francocentric soundtrack and subdued narration by Miranda July. What emerges is a portrait of two people who were equally and obsessively single-minded in their life’s pursuit.
“A kamikaze existence in the beauty of volcanic things,” wrote Maurice in describing his and Katia’s lives. Lives running toward violent and cataclysmic displays of nature rather than away from them. Lives that were exceptionally in tune with one another. And that is the heart of Fire of Love, this eternally romantic idea of a soul mate found, of a couple perfectly puzzle-locked together. What could be more romantic than that? Well, how about this: In 1991, the Kraffts were in Japan to witness the eruption of Mount Unzen when volcanic unpredictability killed them along with 41 others in a mass of burning rock and ash clouds. They had finally gotten too close. But far from shading their love affair with a tragic tint, their deaths feel like a perfectly fitting and graceful ending. The Kraffts would not have wanted it any other way.