Understanding is love’s other name. To love someone is to seek to understand them fully. This Buddhist teaching from Thich Nhat Hanh echoes through the life and relationship of French Volcanologists and filmmakers Maurice and Katia Krafft. The pursuit of understanding lies at the center of their love story, both in their unrelenting affection for each other and their passionate affair with the volcanoes they studied over the course of their life. Fire of Love (2022) chronicles the love, life, and premature death of the Kraffts, whose work shed light on one of the earth's most volatile and mystifying natural phenomena.
The volcanologist duo is brought to life by San Francisco native Sara Dosa, who co-wrote, directed, and produced the film, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year. Much of Dosa’s previous work, The Seer and The Unseen (2019) and The Last Season (2014), explores the unique relationship humans form with their environment. Her most recent entry follows suit. Fire of Love is an incredibly warm movie, not just in its subject matter but in the approach Dosa takes to center the Kraffts’ personal lives as integral to the work they were doing. With what she refers to as a love triangle between Maurice, Katia, and the volcanoes they studied, Dosa highlights the intense force volcanoes had in Krafft’s marriage. With what could simply be an analytical or scientific retelling of events, Dosa utilizes intimacy and vulnerability to execute an emotional journey that feels unique to its genre.
Miranda July provides narration throughout the 93-minute runtime. July is a multi-faceted artist whose career spans from writing and directing to performance art and acting. When speaking about her choice to collaborate with July, Dosa highlights how July's temperament and spirit aids in the audience's exploration into the Krafft's story. July’s work, notably her films Kajillionaire (2020) and Me, You and Everyone We Know (2005), revels in the eccentricity of the human experience. July's curious disposition acts as a conduit between the audience and the Kraffts.
With a complete absence of talking heads, Fire of Love relies almost solely on beautifully restored archival footage to craft its narrative. Sourced from hundreds of hours of Maurice Krafft’s 16mm reels, editors Jocelyne Chaput and Erin Casper piece together the stunning and, in many ways, overwhelming footage to illustrate Krafft’s lifelong search for knowledge. Shot under the guise of scientific documentation, Maurice’s footage has an undeniable cinematic quality that feels akin to the visual components of the French New Wave. With veins of lava cascading down charcoal landscapes to gray ash plumes that engulf the image, the world captured by the Krafft’s feels extra-terrestrial and unfamiliar. In many ways, the footage is a celebration of the passive observation of the absurd wonders found in the natural world.
Fire of Love is a tender tribute not only to the love story of Maurice and Katia Krafft but to human curiosity. The Kraffts had an uncompromising mission to find answers to nature's peculiarities and, in doing so, provided work that is fundamental to our understanding of volcanoes today.
Fire of Love is available in select theaters and on Disney+.
Wyeth Anderson is a withitgirl writer and contributor. She was raised in the Bay Area and has a degree in Film and Sociology from the University of Oregon. Wyeth has a passion for media, antiquing, and her two cats, Niv and Tisa. Follow Wyeth on Instagram.
Film Instagram: @neonrated
Sara Dosa on Instagram: @unadosa
Sara Dosa’s THE LAST SEASON: A documentary filmed in Central Oregon’s wild mushroom hunting camps and was awarded Best Bay Area Documentary at the 2014 San Francisco International Film Festival.
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