This documentary is set to be the hottest film of the summer—in a slightly more literal way. Fire of Love is packed with jaw-dropping imagery of scientific exploration, and unexpectedly makes for a really steamy date night rom-com.
Made up of stunning archival film footage, and supplemented with delightful pop-up book animations, the film follows the lives of Katia and Maurice Krafft. The couple are two French volcanologists who risked their lives throughout the second half of the 20th Century to study active volcanoes, often with more excitement and awe than horror. The film tracks their love story, from the initial mythic meeting (chance meeting on a bench at university/a glance across the room at another volcanologists talk/an excellent blind date), to their passing in the 1991 Mount Unzen eruption.
The beautiful footage captured by Katia and Maurice themselves is the immediate draw of the documentary. Their recordings capture them within metres of red hot lava flows, standing in front of terrifying explosions, and cheekily frying eggs on hot lava rock. Some of the footage looks like it’s from an alien planet—the decimated surroundings of Mount St. Helens’ post-eruption is so eerie, and the underwater footage of lava meeting the ocean is a surprising and strange organic wonder. Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput are the real heroes in bringing the film to life, weaving the Krafft’s footage together to amplify both tension and the couple’s sense of humour. The narration by Miranda July also works to bring some closer insights to the couple’s relationship and the impacts of their work, providing a sense of closeness and intimacy to people whose bravery and resilience seems so foreign.
The documentary is not deeply focused on the scientific knowledge that Katia and Maurice built over the span of their careers, giving only brief descriptions of basic volcanic science. Instead, it’s more interested in exploring how this couple lived with the allure and fear of volcanoes. The presence of their voice recordings and diary excerpts help to draw out their unique perspectives and give clear, enticing insights into their psychologies and philosophies. At one point, Katia explains, “I like when he walks in front of me. If he is going to die, I’d rather be with him.” Through the documentary, it becomes clear that their partnership is what drives them to such extraordinary heights. By the time the film ends, you’ll also be deeply in love with their incredible characters.
While it’s, of course, a deeply awe-inspiring film, it’s also funny, and exciting, and sad, and nerve-wracking. There are moments of unexpected levity. At one point, Maurice rows a rubber boat out onto an acid lake, and Katia is furious with him. In another instance, the narrator explores the crafting of their media personalities, and shows footage of them making the same jokes again and again. A real highlight is when the film reflects on Maurice’s talents and enthusiasm for film-making (which he rejects publicly), showing a clip from his collection where scientists ride horses at the base of a volcano, as if they’re in a Hollywood Western. Awe is a central part of the scientist’s journey, but the film asserts that all of these other emotions and exploits are part of their lives together too.
You may feel inspired to fall deeply in love and climb the many volcanoes of Tāmaki Makaurau after watching Fire of Love. It’s an intimate and inspiring documentary, with an element of thrill that’s completely unique—you’ll leave feeling fulfilled and clamouring for a similar dedication for your passion.
Explosive and intimate, Fire of Love is the most awe-inspiring romantic film there is.