Sundance 2022: Fire of Love – When a Fire Starts to Burn

Katia and Maurice Krafft claim not to have cinematic interests. Yet, their lives work compromises the most stunning cinema. They claim to only have hearts and minds for volcanology. If they could eat rocks, they’d never leave the mountain, they say. They do not love people, they say, they are entirely indifferent to them. Yet, their work also shows a profound compassion and humanity rarely found on the screen. Maurice says if he spends enough time away from people and with volcanoes, maybe then he could love people. Maybe then, he could also work cinematically and show a deep love and passion for the informational movies that he makes, which are more than instructive films about volcanoes: they are colorful and loving works about our relationship to the earth and one another. Maybe it’s because he spent enough time with volcanoes, in a tryst with his partner and mountains, enamored with rocks and volcanic explosions. Maybe he always had a heart and mind for cinema and for people. You can say one thing and do the other.

Fire of Love is, of course, a love story. It’s not clear when Katia and Maurice became partners. They have different stories. There isn’t quite one narrative. Their relationship is simply a fact of their environment. They were moved together like the flow of lava, down a winding river, where they could not diverge from one another’s path, solidified in their romance for volcanoes. They fell into love and then fell into a volcano. More accurately, a volcano fell into them. And then they were frozen together in time. Their watches, stopped. Suspended forever. Together with rock, having become rock, just as they have always lived.

They were tracking an eruption in Japan, at Mount Unzen. But how Perfectly Zen. How Perfectly Them. The documentary shows they are often in seemingly imminent danger. They stand next to live explosions. Sometimes they’re geared up. They’ve seen enough eruptions to basically know that they will generally stay their course, like a river. But we watch as chunks of lava land next to them, and can’t help but wonder, is it an undue risk? They say it’s the only way they would want to go and we believe them because that’s how they went. They would not opt for a life of monotony, they say, when there is the alternative: a life fully lived and perceived right on the cusp of danger, close enough to touch it.

So we watch in awe, as walls of lava cascade around them. The joy of the film is intangible. It’s also distinct and peculiar. We just get to experience people falling in love with every mountain they come across. And they are good at being themselves, playing themselves as they’d come to be recognized on television and in their volcanologist communities. Their study of volcanoes is enriching and wholesome. Maurice is taken with the singular majesty and the spectacle of explosions and the chase of adventure. He tends to wander from his partner, and make her worried. He tries to devise a craft to go down the lava flow like a canoe. Katia, meanwhile, is absorbed with the connectedness of things. With how we’re all a part of this larger ecosystem. She is more careful and prefers to follow from behind. Together, they make a really beautiful and expeditious team. Between their shared passion and their experiences living out on the rocks, with Maurice taking footage and handling the press cycle, while Katia really digs into the material science and writes their books, they have a working relationship unlike any other. Fire of Love lets us join them. Lets us sit in their expeditions, the quiet moments, the press cycles around their adventures.

Over a few decades, the couple have created a captivating body of work. They are wrong about themselves. They are perfect at making films. They film with obvious attention to detail, to color arrangement, to framing. They also love humans, because they are so in love with each other, but especially because they are in love with the cycle of life, and understand it so deeply and with such compassion, that it renders no other choice in the matter. Documentarian Sara Dosa presents their materials as another act of profound compassion. She softly narrates their adventures and has put it together as a testament to love and the world itself. Fire of Love is stunningly pretty. It’s also a great adventure. And it’s a true love story born from the explosive potential of volcanoes. It’s essential that any documentary fan gives it a try.

9/10

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Dad, husband, editor of thetwingeeks.com

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