An unconventional love story is at the heart of “Fire of Love,” a documentary about French scientists Katie and Maurice Krafft, a couple who spent their lives fearlessly studying active volcanoes. The two traveled the world, getting close — too close — to some of the Earth’s most dangerous natural wonders. In the process, the Kraffts captured spectacular footage of lava flows and eruptions, right up until the day they died doing what they loved.
Director Sara Dosa‘s film is comprised of video footage and photographs from the deep personal archives of the Kraffts. Nothing sheds light on the life of these two than their own records of their life’s work. Their documentation of volcanic activity is among the most detailed in the world, and is still revered by volcanologists the world over.
The film is at its best when it focuses on the shared love and obsession Maurice and Katia had with volcanoes and each other. It was a passion that resulted in an extraordinary partnership both in life and in their career. The documentary covers the early history of their initial meeting in 1966 and continues over the next 25 years they spent together.
It’s understandable that Dosa wanted to include the jaw-dropping footage of volcanic eruptions, but the film slows dramatically with the repetitive images of flowing lava. The personal story is more interesting than the archival footage of nature, which is reminiscent of an old 1970s public school filmstrip. The volcanic interludes disrupts the history of the love story, which is the most interesting part of the narrative.
The erratic narration from Miranda July is awkward, but the script is well-written. There’s also some terrific original animation. But the most compelling aspect is the haunting photograph of the last moments of the couple’s lives, standing close to a volcano, side by side, right before they meet their end. It’s a tragic, yet poetic, end to their legacy.
By: Louisa Moore