Death through love is charted punctually and earnestly throughout Fire of Love. The Sara Dosa-directed piece engages the lives of Katia and Maurice Krafft, the scientists who died doing what they loved. Exploring and investigating volcanoes, together. Whether that is a great tragedy or something to mock up as bittersweet, only time will tell. Fire of Love tries to engage it in as neutral a stance as possible although Dosa shifts, ever-so-slightly and ever-so-frequently, to the assumed poetic nature of shuffling off the mortal coil in a state of present euphoria. Not in the face of death but in the face of the work their entire lives have built toward. To die at the peak is nobler than dropping off unknown, apparently.
Where the depth of the love the pair had is seen, it is rarely ever heard beyond the basics. Fire of Love is a moving piece, of course. It shows the peak of what a relationship can be. A shared interest, an extreme bond that keeps the tides from ebbing. But seeing and hearing are two powerful tools that Fire of Love has only one of. Archival footage of the pair clambering up the sides of ash and mountains in absolute silence, aside from the occasional narration from Miranda July, is wonderful. But those that found their home in the magnificence of volcanoes and the raw beauty of fiery magma are stripped back to nothing more than those parts that made them famous. Volcanologists, two French nationals who powered through and showed the world how gorgeous and creatively fulfilling science can be.
Their love may be clear on the screen, but repetitive dialogue to fill in the blanks and gaps does nothing for Fire of Love. Its main draw is the extensive archival footage, nabbed from the annals of screen-tested pieces Katia and Maurice had in their archives. They are wonderfully used and Fire of Love, thanks to Dosa’s hard work, maintains that fine line between respect and investigation. Perhaps the reason audiences are given little on their lives is that they are of no interest, yet their work and what they did together certainly is. It is always nice to know more about the person behind the powerful work, but Fire of Love has such an incredible perspective on what draws people together, and what should tear them apart, that it works rather wonderfully even with its limitations.
Fire of Love is almost impossible not to fall for. Beautiful scenes captured by the Krafft pair and plenty of explanations from them that edge ever closer to why they do what they do. It misses that key explanation needed with the benefit of hindsight, but Dosa’s decision to let the pair speak for themselves is understandable. No definitive accounts of first encounters, of days spent together, but surely those rose-tinted moments can have layers of history applied to them. They are shown for the raw and isolated parts they are meant to be, but that misses out on the point of how the pair grew and how their interest moulded toward a shared fascination. Record scratch bits and pieces and some sluggish narration that would fit into a Wes Anderson montage shot from The French Dispatch, but the bulk of it is very engaging. Bonding and growing together in the fires of nature is a wonderful, expansive showcase that just needs a few knots tightening.