July 18th, 2022
MOVIE: FIRE OF LOVE
STARRING: MIRANDA JULY, KATIA KRAFFT, MAURICE KRAFFT
DIRECTED BY: SARA DOSA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
I recently attempted to watch the Apple TV series Prehistoric Planet. As fascinating and beautiful as it was, seeing the recreations of what life might have been like on our planet in the time of dinosaurs felt too digitally manufactured and inauthentic to completely hit me. Sure, we have more than a century of research on the extinct giant reptiles but seeing them in life-like high definition, basking in the natural beauties of Earth as we know it today, is what it is: a computer-generated look at what our world was like millions of years ago. In essence, it’s the exact opposite as Fire of Love.
More recent and very authentic is the actual footage shot by Maurice and Katia Krafft during the 1970s through the early 90s as they closely inspected their greatest love: volcanos. It’s mentioned early on in the new documentary that the Kraffts died during one of their expeditions in 1991. Never before has so much of their footage been brought together for a compelling portrait of their subject and their own relationship. Compiling segments from hundreds of hours of films and thousands of photos, director Sara Dosa, along with her expert editing team, provide us with some of the most thrilling and spellbinding shots the famous couple created over their years together.
We see the majestic nature of falling boulders, flowing lava, and massive eruptions. The Kraffts were often right on the edge of this volcanic activity as they traveled to places such as Iceland, Zaire, Indonesia, Colombia, and Washington State’s Mount St. Helens. They filmed the spellbinding beauty of these volcanoes while also capturing the devastating destruction left in the aftermath of eruptions.
Fire of Love doesn’t feel like a school film about the science of volcanoes though. The footage is very raw though and, due to the era in which the Krafft’s shot their images, not even close to high definition in terms of visual clarity and detail. Rather, the film is presented in traditional standard aspect ratio with grainy and sometimes shaky camera work which is only natural given that all of the footage is from the last few decades of the 20th Century. In that sense, it looks like an older documentary but unlike the aforementioned Prehistoric Planet series, these are actual live first-hand shots that are not doctored, computer-generated, or manipulated. Yes, the original 16mm footage had to be digitized for us to be able to see it today, and there is voice over narration of Katia’s written words from actress/director Miranda July, but none of it ever feels anything less than authentic and painstakingly captured.
The film also doesn’t feel like a science lesson. This isn’t a dry explanation of how, why, and when volcanoes occur. Rather it is a document of the thrilling images that the Krafft’s shot. There are brief discussions of gray versus red volcanos but the couple acknowledged that there was a lot they still didn’t know about these catastrophic eruptions. Instead we experience their love of this terrifying and magnificent side of nature.
The Kraffts became celebrities during their time and it’s easy to see why. They both had a sense of humor and came across as very likable people who wanted to share their dedicated study of volcanoes in hopes of informing people and making them more aware of the potential signs of eruptions. In turn, Dosa provides as much footage of the two of them discussing their passion on television shows and during interviews as is available from the time.
All the while, the Krafft’s gave up any possibility of having children and instead viewed volcanoes as the third part of their relationship. They embraced their passion right to the end. We’re very fortunate to have Fire of Love, displaying their work in this visually stimulating documentary. It features footage you’re likely not to see anywhere else…unless someone decides to recreate it for Apple TV. But then, you wouldn’t be seeing the real thing and you wouldn’t experience the joys the Kraffts shared in their passionate adventures together.
FIRE OF LOVE IS CURRENTLY PLAYING AT THE MUSIC BOX THEATER IN CHICAGO.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Dan Pal