Fire of Love is a documentary directed by Sara Dosa, who also wrote the movie alongside Erin Casper, Jocelyne Chaput, and Shane Boris. Casper and Chaput were in charge of the all-important editing, and with an abundance of footage to work with, their achievement in narrowing it all down is impressive. They were able to craft a concise and compelling visual arc that told as much of the story as the narration did. The movie tells the story of married volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Krafft, who studied, visited, and documented hundreds of volcanic eruptions in their careers. With their own magnificent footage and narration from Miranda July, the filmmakers trace Katia and Maurice’s story from their first meeting in the 1960s to their death, side by side, in 1991.
In 2023, Fire of Love was nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars and the BAFTAs, receiving almost universal acclaim from critics. Balancing volcanic information with Katia and Maurice’s equally explosive romance, the documentary never loses its momentum by getting bogged down in either component. It’s as much of a love story as it is a nature documentary. Fire of Love is an example of when fact is more incredible than fiction and, in this case, more romantic, and here’s why.
The Depth of the Visuals
Fire of Love is composed entirely of archival footage. The majority of this footage comes from Katia and Maurice’s records, both videos and images. There is also footage from their appearances on talk shows and other interviews, which fleshes out the narrative by answering many of the questions the filmmakers may have wanted to ask had they been alive. But Katia and Maurice’s own records are evidently the most important component of this film. Not only because of its visual impact and beauty but also because it tells us about their relationship.
Yes, the videos they took of the volcanoes and each other were for scientific record, but this filming was also an act of love. We hear them discuss how they love volcanoes so much that they would stay up there forever if they could, eating rocks for sustenance. Because their love for each other is predicated on their love for volcanoes, when they discuss one it’s evident that they are also talking about the other; the two are intertwined. So, the attention to detail in these shots of mountains, lava, and one another relays a level of tenderness and care between them that is not as easy to put into words.
The Score and Soundtrack
The music in this movie comes from an original score by Nicolas Godin, whose music appears in 10 Things I Hate About You, The Virgin Suicides, and Euphoria, and a soundtrack of existing music. In an interview with Variety, Godin discusses his inspiration for the music, saying, “I thought it was a natural thing to imagine I was part of the team at the time back then. I would be the musician of the group.” This sentiment emphasizes the collective and collaborative nature of the Kraffts’ work, driven by their romance. Godin using this mindset evidently paid off because he produced a deeply atmospheric and affecting score for the movie.
The soundtrack is composed of music from artists including Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone, and music by Godin from other projects. This combination results in a varied but cohesive selection of music in which it’s not obvious which moments are scored deliberately for the movie and which are existing pieces that just happen to fit well. Every technical component is formulated in a way that blends together effortlessly, which shines a light on the way Katia and Maurice were so enmeshed.
The Story Itself
With that being said, the most achingly romantic aspect of the entire movie is simply the story. One of the very first things we are told is that Katia and Maurice died in 1991. By framing the narrative this way, it creates tension throughout, as well as providing the audience with a similar perspective on their lives that they would have had themselves. They knew that every volcano they visited could be their last and that they would most likely die an early death this way. Not only was this inevitable for them, but it was also desirable.
Their love brought them to volcanoes, to each other, and to a tragic — to some — death. This dangerous and doomed romance is irresistible to them and to the audience. Even knowing the outcome, it’s hard to argue that they should have done anything differently. Katia says that she follows Maurice because if he is going to die, then that’s what she wants as well. It might all come across as morbid, but that’s what makes it so compelling. Their relationship is as inevitable and unchangeable as the volcanoes they study whose glowing, swelling rivers of lava provide the perfect visual descriptor of the magnetic Katia and Maurice Krafft.