It is difficult not to be impressed by what is so beautifully and terrifyingly presented in documentary film “Fire of Love”, which is currently available on Disney+ in South Korea. For presenting the story of one exceptional volcanologist couple, its director and editors assembled and then edited lots of archival footage clips left by this couple, and their overall result is often extraordinary for many awesome moments of sheer wonder and danger.
That volcanologist couple in question are Katia and Maurice Krafft, who were always together for their endless interest and fascination toward volcanoes for many years before they ultimately died in the Mount Unzen eruption in Japan in 1991. When they accidentally met each other for the first time in the middle of the 1960s, they instantly clicked with each other thanks to their common academic subject, and that was the beginning of their long story of study, adventure, and love.
As shown from a series of archival footage clips showing how they worked and interacted with each other, Katia and Maurice were a wonderful couple who complemented each other in more than one aspect. Right from when they began their relationship, they decided not to have any kid for fully focusing on their scientific research which would surely demand a lot of time and effort from them, and their contrasting approach methods fit quite well with each other. While Maurice usually approached to his study subjects in wider views, Katia focused on smaller things to observe and record, and that made them perfect research partners for each other.
For their research, Katia and Maurice often went here and there around the world for any active volcano about to be erupted sooner or later, and that was where most of their remarkable film records came from. While they were in constant danger, they took some calculated risk for their academic interest and study, and you will surely be awed and terrified as observing how they were often very close to erupting volcanoes. Yes, it is indeed awesome to have a close view on those epic eruptions, but it is also quite scary to watch all those vividly volcanic moments full of hot smoke and lava, and you will be all the amazed by how Katia and Maurice were usually casual in front of their camera.
Of course, Katia and Maurice were certainly well aware of the possibility of getting themselves killed at any moment during their field research, but they were still driven by their academic passion as well as their love toward volcanoes. While it was always difficult to fund their researches, they were always happy and excited whenever they had a chance to observe an active volcano in their latest eruption, and we cannot help but amused a bit as watching a number of little playful moments between them.
Although they initially thought that it was not right to categorize volcanoes due to their various characteristics, Katia and Maurice eventually agreed that volcanoes could be divided into two categories. In case of “red volcanoes”, they are relatively less dangerous because their craters simply spew up red hot lava to be flowed down from them, and that was how Katia and Maurice could often closely capture those vivid moments of eruption from this kind of volcanoes. At one point, the documentary shows an archival footage clip showing hot lava quickly cooled by sea water, and that is certainly another marvelous moment to watch.
In case of “grey volcanoes”, they can be much more dangerous than their red cousins because their sudden explosive eruption can be quite more disastrous in addition to being very unpredictable. In case of the massive eruption of the Mount St. Helens in US in 1980, which is still the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the US history, many volcanologists including Katia and Maurice knew in advance that the volcano would soon have a big eruption, but the eventual eruption was a lot more catastrophic than expected, and the gray barren aftermath of the eruption shot by Katia and Maurice is devastating to watch to say the least.
While they loved volcanoes a lot, Katia and Maurice also cared a lot about predicting and preparing for the disasters caused by volcanic eruptions just like many other fellow volcanologists of theirs. Although there are many unpredictable factors behind volcanic eruption, there are also scientific ways to detect the possibility of next eruption to happen, and Katia and Maurice focused much on recording how catastrophic volcano eruption can be. In case of the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz stratovolcano in Colombia in 1985, this resulted in the death of more than 23,000 people, and Katia and Maurice did not look away at all as vividly capturing its horrific aftermath with their camera.
The story eventually arrives at that fatal moment of Katia and Maurice on June 3rd, 1991. When Mount Unzen finally began its eruption, this turned out to be deadlier and more unpredictable than expected, Katia and Maurice were unfortunately too close to the volcano at that time, and it is poignant to see how they diligently worked together as usual before that fateful day came – and how they probably stood by each other till their death.
In conclusion, “Fire of Love”, which won the Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award in the U.S. Documentary category when it was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival early in this year, handles its two fascinating human subjects with care and respect in addition to presenting a bunch of splendid moments of terrifying beauty. While director/co-writer/co-producer Sara Dosa and her editors Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput did a commendable job on the whole, the narration from Miranda July functions well as the reflective comment on the life and career of Katia and Maurice Krafft, and the effective score by Nicolas Godin further enhances many unforgettable parts in the story, In short, this is one of the best documentaries of this year, and I wholeheartedly recommend you to check it out as soon as possible.