“Do I like this movie, or do I just like the footage?” I frequently asked myself this during Fire of Love, a documentary about the relationship between volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft and their explosive expeditions.
Director Sara Dosa (The Last Season) compiles B-roll shot by the Kraffts (and friends), news footage, and media interviews to arrange a full-length retrospective of Katia and Maurice’s career. The movie favours their work over their romance but, then again, I think this artistic choice would’ve been unanimously approved by the Mother Earth enthusiasts. However, a romantic angle is infused by the filmmakers and narrator Miranda July (Madeline’s Madeline), which is where the film falters for me.
The Kraffts are peculiar daredevils in their own right but, over the course of the doc, the audience comes to understand their personal dynamic and their shared bond over volcanoes. But, it’s almost as if, in the editing bay, Dosa noticed how much of their behaviour could be deemed as quirky and, as a storyteller, decided to lean into this perspective. The poetic writing that ties the footage together, along with July’s enamoured tone, only adds to Dosa’s misplaced stretch to mimic films of the French New Wave movement or the catalogue of Wes Anderson (especially when Katia is running around in Steve Zissou’s red cap). When the doc shifts focuses to the supremely dangerous qualities of natural disasters, the tonal change is jarring.
When the volcanologists are at work, Fire of Love is fairly breathtaking. It’s astounding to watch experienced individuals stand so close to erupting volcanoes and watch their scale be dwarfed by raging lava flows and dangerous plumes from the ground. The film quality is pretty grainy, but the colour contrast between a person and the lava’s vibrancy still punches out – it’s so cool to watch. It’s also great to have such a close view of rolling magma as it hardens or branches off.
Fire of Love has a lot of memorable visuals that are easy to enjoy when the film isn’t trying to woo and charm the audience with a certain….je ne sais quoi?
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie