Fire Of Love’s magnificent magma

September 22, 2022


Fire Of Love REVIEW

GARY STEEL is mesmerised by an explosive documentary about a pair of intrepid volcanologists living a “kamikaze existence”.

Screening in NZ from Thursday September 22.

You’d think that a film featuring nothing much but ageing ‘70s and ‘80s footage of volcanic explosions, molten lava and volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft on their expeditions might be a little on the dull side. In fact, that couldn’t be further than the truth.


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The 93 minutes of this film by Sara Dosa (Tricky Dick & The Man In Black, The Seer & The Unseen) is a compelling and thoroughly captivating biography of the Krafft’s that complements their story with the dramatically-edited footage that they repeatedly risked their lives for.

It’s a very strange and rather moving love story of a French couple who were obsessed with volcanoes, and who early in their marriage agreed not to have children so that they could pursue their one abiding passion. They come across as partly the volcano equivalent of tornado-chasers, and Maurice at one point describes their lives as “a kamikaze existence” as they seek to get closer and closer to the source of their fascination.

But in their case, while they clearly yearned for the thrill of imminent danger (and instant annihilation), they were also seriously collecting data and deep knowledge about volcanoes and in the process, establishing volcanology as a thing. And as the film points out, after the Columbian eruption that killed around 25,000 people in 1985, their impetus was trying to get authorities to understand volcanoes and when and how to evacuate communities.

Sadly, the film is also a tragedy, as the couple (both in their mid-40s) died in the Mount Unzen (Japan) eruption in 1991. But as they eloquently explain in the film, human lives are but a blip compared to a volcano’s, and the experiential thrill of getting so close to one and surviving is really living.

Special mention must be made of the exquisite, poetical and impactful way the film is edited by Erin Casper and Jocelyn Chaput, along with the way the Krafft’s story is told, and especially the effective use of sound effects and music (which includes the evocative likes of Brian Eno, Air, Jan Jelinek and Roedelius).

The one small imperfection is Miranda July’s mannered narration, but thankfully, her dialogue is used sparingly.

In reality, the raw footage of lava flows, glowing magma and effusive explosions would have kept me transfixed all by itself, but it’s the way it amplifies the incredible story and mixes with the unfathomable mystery at the heart of all life and matter that makes Fire Of Love a must-see.


Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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