Sara Dosa’s documentary about Katia and Maurice Krafft transcends a mere nature documentary by focusing on the love story shared between the two volcanologists.
Fire of Love tells the story of Katia and Maurice Krafft, two ill-fated volcanologists, documenting their life and career in their own words. Relying primarily on archived footage taken by the Kraffts themselves, the documentary showcases the rise of the two volcanologists as some of the most recognizable names in volcanic study, to their extraordinary documentation of volcanic activity, to their eventual tragic deaths in 1991. The film is directed by Sara Dosa, and narrated by Miranda July.
There are a number of different factors working for this documentary. For one thing, it is incredible to see the Krafft archival footage showcased. Maurice and Katia were revolutionaries in the study of volcanology, as they were two of the first volcanologists to get so close to the volcanos, with an array of impressive and stunning footage to show for it. Some of the shots of the two exploring volcanos behind a wall of erupting red lava feels like something out of a dream.
And, the passion these two people had for volcanoes is ever apparent. On top of the footage of the volcanoes themselves, we see cutaways of a wide-eyed Katia and Maurice on the news, shrugging off journalists’ questions about the danger of their work. They both state multiple times that they are just fine with dying, if it meant they got to continue their work as volcanologists for the rest of their lives. They get word of other volcanologists being killed on the job, including personal friends, but they continue on, because they can not imagine doing anything else with their lives. There is an ever apparent love story being told, between two people and their lives’ passion.
However, it’s not the only love story being told. The stronger story is that of the actual love story between Katia and Maurice. The two meet as young scientists, who bond over a shared niche passion. They eventually marry, and spend the rest of their lives chasing the thrill of studying a new volcano, intoxicated by the uncertainty of what such study may bring on any given day. They master an efficient but codependent working relationship, breaking through boundaries of volcanic study at the time. It is clear that if there is one thing this couple loves more than volcanoes, it’s each other.
Which is why it is all the more tragic to learn of their eventual fates. Whilst monitoring volcanic activity around Mount Unzen, Katia and Maurice Krafft were killed in June 1991, when the mount erupted in a pattern that contradicted what they had predicted. The disaster ultimately took the lives of 41 other people, including American geologist Harry Glicken. While it’s sad, there is a level of tragic romance to the story. Maurice and Katia never had to live a day without each other, and they died doing what they loved most in the world.
That is exactly what makes this documentary so beautiful. Sure, the volcanos are a wonder to behold, and the footage captured of them is stunning. Dosa does a service to the memory and legacy of the Kraffts by showcasing the work that they had poured so much of their souls into over the course of their lives. But she doesn’t stop there. She manages to showcase the people behind all the hard work, in a way that is beautiful and sincere. It leaves you wishing that you could have a conversation with the Kraffts, to ask them what it was about volcanoes specifically that ignited their passion so deeply.
Fire of Love may not be able to answer that question, but it can at least offer an intimate look at the couple, reminding you that their love for each other was an ever crucial part of their work and lives. And for that, it is certainly worth a watch.
Likely: Best Documentary Feature
Should be Considered: Best Documentary Feature
Where to Watch: Disney+
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett