Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Miranda July, Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft
Written by: Shane Boris, Erin Casper, Jocelyne Chaput, Sara Dosa
Directed by: Sara Dosa
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material including some unsettling images, and brief smoking
Running Time: 93
Date: 07/06/2022
IMDB

Fire of Love (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lava Champs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filled with breathtaking footage, and making use of skillful editing, tranquil, thoughtful music, and gorgeously poetic narration, the documentary Fire of Love endearingly merges science, nature, and romance.

In the film, documentary filmmaker Sara Dosa tells the story of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, a married couple who traveled the world, wrote books, took photos, and made films about volcanos. Their ultimate goal was to save lives, discovering warning signs that would allow citizens to evacuate and avoid the deadly fallout of an eruption. After some 25 years by each other's side, the Kraffts finally met their end when Japan's Mount Unzen erupted in June of 1991. But their incredible footage still survives, and inspires.

The decision to use actor/artist/filmmaker Miranda July to narrate Fire of Love was inspired; her delicate, melancholy, almost-whispered line readings lend a sense of the ethereal to the movie, casting the images in an existential light. Again and again, as the movie describes Maurice and Katia's singular focus on their studies, July's voicework and the expert filmmaking help us understand the draw. (The Kraffts were also discussed in Werner Herzog's volcano documentary Into the Inferno.)

The footage, much of it shot by the Kraffts themselves, is glorious, and it's easy to agree with Maurice when he asserts that volcanos are the most beautiful things on earth. And, as July says in her narration, the camera loves these two. Maurice is like a roly-poly Teddy Bear, twice the size, we learn, of the pixie-ish Katia, who gazes at life through her huge spectacles.

If Fire of Love has a flaw, it's that there's too much fire and too little love. Director Dosa is limited to archival footage — the movie makes no secret of the fact that Katia and Maurice are gone — and much of it features one Krafft or the other, but rarely both. There are only fleeting glimpses of what their personal and romantic relationship must have been like. Even so, the doc is moving on a human level, and awesome on a cosmic level.

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