Skip to content

Sundance 2022: Fire of Love

January 27, 2022


Director Sara Dosa describes “Fire of Love” as a love story. That is exactly what it is, yet it is also about beauty in the world, two kinds to be specific – the beauty (and wonder) of the earth and the beauty (and connection) of two people finding each other and dying together. Utilizing an impressive amount of archival footage, the documentary invites us to travel back in time and learn about married Alsatian French volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft, without catching up to modern-day at any time. The combination of watching timeless majesty of the earth and discovering a passionate couple who are no longer here, allows viewers to consider the power and the fragility of life.

The film opens with an all-terrain vehicle pushing forward up a mountainside, making its way through a snowy tundra. Amid the cool earth tone colors, sparks fiery oranges and reds that shine beyond the rim of the mountain. The destination is obvious and the danger feels real. This is our introduction to Maurice and Katia, donned in red knit caps (as if they stepped out of a Wes Anderson film) and operating their cameras and equipment with movement as natural as the nearby flowing magma. That is their vehicle and this is their land, where they thrive and live their best life.

Our host, as we get to know this quirky couple is filmmaker Miranda July, who lends a fittingly monotone voice as narrator to Dosa’s endearing and breathtaking 90-minute documentary. July’s involvement (her lines are written by director Dosa with Erin Casper, Jocelyne Caput, and Shane Boris) becomes an oddly comforting element to the film. The footage of them at work or home mostly comes straight off the shelves of Maurice and Katia and while they have been restored, the personal touch of the grain thankfully remains. There are many small deliberate decisions to present a documentary that’s isn’t just going over the who and when of it all. There’s a mystery and awe to what we see, and it’s just as enlightening to learn about this pair as it is to behold such otherworldly landscapes. Such visuals pull us in and compel us to wonder about this powerful world and the people who live on it and the more we get to know Katia (who calls herself “the bird”) and Maurice (him, the “elephant seal) one can’t help but wonder if either of them had felt the same way we do watching this.



“Fire of Love” touches on the uncanny origin of Maurice and Katia and their sudden death, another wise decision that draws viewers closer to the subjects. Their pyroclastic connection began when they met each other on a park bench in 1966. After that came marriage and a honeymoon in Stromboli, (a northern island of Sicily) home to three active volcanoes. Therefore, absolute paradise for these two. Their first major expedition was traveling to Mount Nyiragongo in the Congo, and after that they would receive correspondences from colleagues or fans, with breaking information on when a volcano has erupted or when one is about to blow. Like tornado chasers, instead of running away, Maurice and Katia would fly (and then walk and drive, inevitably) to these specific locations, hoping to analyze the earth before, during or after an eruption…often becoming the first on the scene of an active volcano. Dosa touches on how the couple would educate whoever would listen – from government officials, to children, to talk show hosts – about the different types of active volcanoes (red or gray – red is cooler to look at; think lava lamp, while gray can sneak up on you in potentially fatal ways) and they were also major proponents in coming up with ways to warn civilians within the vicinity of active volcanoes about oncoming eruptions. Then, in 1991, while visiting Mount Unzen in Japan during an eruption, they die standing right beside each other with Maurice’s watch permanently stopped at 4:18 p.m.

All this establishes that this is far from a typical or average nature doc. While volcanoes are powerful and quite amazing to behold, even on a screen as opposed to being there in person, “Fire of Love” just wouldn’t be the same without Maurice & Katia. This isn’t too far off from Dosa’s previous work, “The Seer and the Unseen”, a surreal documentary that follows an Icelandic woman who interacts with spirits through nature. In fact, she learned about the Kraffts while making that film. Seeing active volcanoes as the Kraffts see them is just as important to Dosa as it is offering footage of the natural wonders in action. Yet, in their communication about their subjects, they consistently provide a balance of admiration and caution – especially when they share who the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 was the equivalent of the a-bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Between the collaging prowess of editors Erin Casper and Jocelyn Chaput and the immersive cinematography by Pablo Alvarez-Mesa, “Fire of Love” is a documentary that stands out visually while resting solely on the unique individuals at its core. There are just as many hair-raising moments as there are heavy-heart ones here.

It’s no surprise that after its Thursday, January 20th world premiere at Sundance, “Fire of Love” was almost immediately snatched by National Geographic Documentary Films with a mid-seven-figure worldwide deal to release the film later this year (reportedly in July) – and that’s welcome news, considering how great it will be to see this on the big-screen!



RATING: ***1/2













No comments yet

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: