FYC: ‘Fire of Love’ Best Documentary

Fire of Love tells the story of volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft. The Kraffts were revolutionaries in the study of volcanology, being two of the first volcanologists to capture the volcanoes up close on film. While the documentary focuses on the lives and careers of the Kraffts, including their tragic fate, it opens up the floor for a beautiful conversation about love and life. 

I went into this film for the first time expecting to watch a mere nature documentary. The first few minutes of the film told me exactly what I thought I needed to know: this was a story about Katia and Maurice Krafft, and the volcanoes they studied. Spoiler alert: they would not survive the end of the story. Surely there is nothing much more to say, right? 

I was surprised, if not enthralled, to learn there is much, much more to say. Drawing on the aesthetics and stylings of a 1960s French New Wave romantic film, Fire of Love tells a love story shared between two people and their greatest life’s passion. When I spoke with director Sara Dosa, she told me the impetus for this film was a quote she had discovered from Maurice that said “For me, Katia, and volcanoes: it is a love story.” I’ve been ruminating on that quote ever since. I feel it summarizes the film best. It can be interpreted two ways: is Maurice suggesting that for him and Katia, there is a love story with volcanoes? Or, he is suggesting that there is a love story being shared amongst all three, like a love triangle? Fire of Love certainly suggests so in a way that may seem a bit off on paper, but on film, is surprisingly understandable. There is something about the way the Kraffts captured the volcanoes that provides the viewer an opportunity to see them as the majestic wonders of Earth that Katia and Maurice saw. The footage is absolutely extraordinary, even by today’s standards, and is captured on film so beautifully. 

Dosa does the Kraffts a service by showcasing their brilliant work in a way that makes it seem as if they themselves had a hand in the creation of the documentary. However, she goes a step further. She opens the doors into the souls of the people behind the camera. There is something so inspiring about the Krafft story. They found something that most desire but few actually find. They managed to seek true love in both another person, but also in the world itself, in the work they did. They got to spend each day of their lives doing the thing they loved most in the world, with the person they loved most. Sure, it was not perfect, and the documentary reminds us of such. There’s a whole portion of the film dedicated to the risks and dangers that come with the unpredictability of volcanos that Katia and Maurice had to navigate, and they lost friends in the process. 

However, there is something inspiring about the way Katia and Maurice seem to have a total disregard for it. Maurice even says at one point that he’s okay with the idea of dying on the job, if it meant he could continue to study the volcanoes for the rest of his life. And while it is unfortunate that he and Katia are both killed in 1991 during the eruption of Mount Unzen, there is a level of tragic romance to it all. Katia and Maurice ultimately never had to live a day without each other, and they died pursuing their lives’ passions. 

The level of detail and care given to this documentary is ever apparent in the film. It is clear that everyone involved in its making had a clear respect, if not love, for Maurice and Katia’s work, and the intention to honor the Krafft’s memory is carried out beautifully. Which, coupled with a stunning cinematic feel and masterful storytelling, makes for an absolutely beautiful documentary, and a beyond worthy contender for Best Documentary Feature. 

Check out our review of Fire of Love here.
You can also read Lex’s interview with director Sara Dosa here.

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