Fire of Love: couple's burning desire to uncover volcanoes' secrets

Thursday, 28th July — By Dan Carrier

Fire of Love

Katia Krafft in Fire of Love

Directed by Sara Dosa
Certificate: PG

FIRE is associated with passion, and in this extraordinarily moving documentary, we consider the lives of a couple who spent their days studying volcanoes, their love forged in the heat of molten rocks spluttering into the sky from deep within the Earth.

In an opening scene, we are given a flavour of the type of effort wife and husband scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft make.

On a mountainside, a rugged 4X4 with outsized wheels crunches its way through 10ft snow drifts. It is a stop-start journey, and the stars first come into shot as they clamber into the blizzards to dig out wheels stuck in deep snowy hollows.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of footage the couple shot, we learn from the off they died in a tragic accident on Mount Unzen in Japan. They were 49 and 45 years old in 1991.

They were two of 31 souls who lost their lives that day in an eruption and this film brings back to life their passion for planet Earth, and their deep love and respect for each other.

It’s both a nature documentary and a story of a partnership. While we watch spectacular images, we are treated to an insider’s take on what made them tick as a couple and their working practises, which often meant simply walking up to the mouth of a volcano, conducting tricky experiments, shooting film and then coming back down again. Their protective equipment seems antiquated and minimal – but their love for the job means they are happy to put up with hardship.

The film takes us back to the 1960s, when they were both students. They watched the Vietnam war play out, saw their peers attempt to take on the state in 1968, and were growing up in a time of political turmoil. They went on a date, discovered a shared fascination with volcanoes, and fell in love.

Married life was unusual. The pair traversed the world, climbing volcanoes, studying how and why they erupted.

We are told at the beginning what is going to happen – we are shown a haunting piece of footage, just hours before they met horrific deaths. It is a clever way of adding extra suspense.

The Kraffts were famous. Their calling card – the wife and husband team who clamber into smoking bowls of heat and sulphur – was unique.

This comes over well. We discover their passions, their motivations. With their love at the root of this, we have a personal narrative. We are treated to a stunning series of images they filmed. Watching a volcano erupt is satisfying. Watching them perch on the lips of a volcano to catch the shot is inspiring.

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