February 1, 2023

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Fire of Love Volcano
Photos courtesy of National Geographic

Fire of Love: A Review

Katia and Maurice Krafft loved two things — each other and volcanoes.

For two decades, the daring French volcanologist couple roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and documenting their discoveries. Ultimately, they lost their lives in a 1991 volcanic explosion, leaving a legacy that forever enriched our knowledge of the natural world. Director Sara Dosa and the filmmaking team fashion a lyrical celebration of the intrepid scientists’ spirit of adventure, drawing from the Kraffts’ spectacular archive. 

The Disney Plus documentary Fire of Love tells a story of primordial creation and destruction, following two bold explorers as they venture into the unknown, all for the sake of love.

An Elemental Lifestyle

As the camera pans in, we are greeted by raw footage of Katia and Maurice struggling to traverse the tundra during a combative storm. The choice to begin the documentary with the scene is a poignant one, informing the viewers this couple live an elemental lifestyle, devoid of everything save one another and nature itself. 

Seeing the conditions in which they often operate also provides a sense of foreshadowing of their ultimate fate; it is not a shock that the two would die in a remote location having finally worn out the mercy of their beloved volcanoes. 

Director Sara Dosa almost presents the Kraffts as rockstars, because in the volcanologist world — they are. They live on the edge, touring the farthest edges of the earth. 

A Psychedelic Thriller?

Dosa could be accused of leaning too heavily into Avant Garde techniques, but in reality, she merely lets the considerable amount of footage left behind by Katia and Maurice speak for itself. They were unique individuals who felt most at home sitting at the mouths of active volcanoes in heat resistant jumpsuits. 

Grainy video and the sheer visual nature of their explorations evokes memories of early sci-fi films. Perhaps that was part of the allure for the volcano chasers — the feeling of walking on an alien surface far removed from the relentless troubles of mankind. 

Credit does need to be given, however, to Dosa for her use of editing, which at times put the viewer in the head and visual space of a fever dream or psychedelic trip. 

Equally as masterfully unraveled is the arc of Katia and Maurice’s love story, which began in a French café in 1966 and budded and blossomed over 19 years before their untimely demise. The proof of their intimate connection is forever preserved in the abundant video footage left behind like minerals forever caught in the volcanic ash they so often tread upon. 

Or a Romantic Tragedy

But that connection was always shared with Earth’s most terrible and spectacular natural formation — the volcano

“If he is going to die, I’d rather be with him,” Katia said at one point. The statement was an augury of things to come. 

The Krafft’s died on 3 June 1991 when they were hit by a pyroclastic flow at Unzen volcano in Japan.

Often overshadowed by the deaths of the Krafft’s, is the death of American volcanologist Harry Glicken during the same event. Harry did some of the pioneering research on volcanic debris avalanches and helped to develop our understanding of these phenomena. 

Around 40 journalists that had accompanied the Krafft’s were also killed by the same pyroclastic flow.

Fire of Love is surreal, uniquely animated and edited, and weaves a narrative that helps viewers understand the couple’s connection to one another and, of course, volcanoes. It is a story that was begging to be told, and Dosa was a fitting choice for the task. 

Fire of Love is now streaming on Disney Plus.

By Aron Vaughan

By Aron Vaughan

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