‘Fire of Love’ true story: Volcano lovers left behind footage

Glowing lava flows through the astonishing footage in Fire of Love, a blazingly lyrical documentary that looks equally at an indomitable force of nature and the incomprehensible manifestations of human affection.

French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft are the couple responsible for the film’s ravishing reels of explosions and flows of molten rock – collected over decades from expeditions to active calderas around the world. After their untimely deaths near Mount Unzen in Japan in 1991, the couple left behind material that immortalizes both their shared fascination with the transformative power of the earth and the intensity of their bond. Her vocation for volcanoes bordered on worship.

Premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and now being screened in a limited edition, director Sara Dosa’s romantic non-fiction film was constructed almost entirely from the cinematic and photographic memories of the deceased scientists.

“They got so close to these erupting craters and their sheer love is palpable in their images,” Dosa told the Times in a recent video interview from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. “These aren’t just beautiful photos of volcanoes. I really think you can feel their passion, their desire through the frame. “

Fire of Love traces the Kraffts’ passionate connection, from the conflicting accounts of their first encounter as students at the University of Strasbourg in the 1960s, to their numerous journeys to inhospitable places, where Katia acted as the voice of reason throughout a mischievous Maurice posed himself needlessly at risk.

Dosa sheds light on the blurring chasm between the two forces majeures that brought them together: a love affair and an almost irrational curiosity about the same dangerous subject.

The veteran documentary filmmaker and producer first heard about the Kraffts while filming her earlier environmentally conscious Iceland-based project The Seer and the Unseen, about a woman with a spiritual connection to nature. While searching for footage of a local volcano, Dosa came across clips of Katia and Maurice online – it was enough to pique their creative interest.

“It was unmistakably different from other volcanic footage I’d seen,” she said. “But once we really got to know them as people who had this beautiful relationship with each other, as well as these idiosyncratic personalities and lifestyles with a philosophy of how to live because they had to atone for death from such an early age, that’s where.” we really were I felt like they would make great characters in a movie.”

Two people on the edge of a volcano spewing rocks.

An active volcano in “Fire of Love”.

(Sundance Institute)

Fascinated, she pushed this idea into the back of her mind to pursue it in the future. But after the global COVID-19 emergency forced Dosa’s team to abandon a planned project in Siberia, the story of Katia and Maurice, told in pre-existing documents, resurfaced as a possible path.

“We thought, ‘Maybe this could be the perfect project during the pandemic,'” she explained. “Not only because it’s an archive, but in our minds we thought maybe it could be a form of transcendence, telling a story about fear, uncertainty and how to navigate the unknown in such a time of loss and struggle to be able to.”

When Dosa wanted access to the Kraffts’ amazing collection, it was in the possession of the French archival institution Image’Est. The organization spent several months digitizing the celluloid, which had not previously been scanned, for the filmmakers to use. In all, the team amassed thousands of Katia’s photographs and 250 hours of film footage – about 200 hours of 16mm prints filmed by Katia and Maurice, plus a further 50 hours of her television appearances, sourced from France’s National Archives with the help of researcher Nancy Marcotte.

While these on-camera interviews for variety shows or news programs provided a glimpse of the couple’s personality and humor, they did not include discussions of the inner workings of their relationship. Even their daring exploits were not caught in the field.

“There was no sync audio on the 16mm shots, and there are very few images of the two together in their shots because there’s usually someone behind the camera,” Dosa noted. “They didn’t film their personal lives either. They just wanted to film volcanoes.”

To make up for the lack of apparent intimacy, Dosa and her collaborators had to explore other storytelling avenues. The answer lay in the couple’s nearly 20 published books.

Steeped in emotional language, the narrative in Katia and Maurice’s lyrics Dosa recalled the playful and bombastic voice-overs in some of François Truffaut’s films and the French New Wave in general – a movement that emerged during the Kraffts’ youth.

A man and woman in parkas stand in front of rocks shrouded in clouds of steam.

Maurice and Katia Krafft in “Love’s Fire”.

(Sundance Institute)

“We felt it appropriate to bring their own artistic impulses into the production of our film. That’s why the narrative seemed to work like it could work. But we wanted a narrator who is curious and inquisitive, to point out some of the unknowns, the gaps in the archive, rather than claiming to have all the knowledge,” she said.

The formulation of their poetic epic as a romantic dilemma between Katia, Maurice and the many volcanoes they were in love with also came from the volcanologists’ own words.

“We got the idea of ​​the love triangle from a sentence in a book that Maurice wrote, where he says, ‘For me, Katia and Vulkane, it’s a love story.’ It’s a line at the very end of our film now, but for us it was a point of origin,” Dosa said. “We thought, ‘This is our thesis. It’s these three characters. Two of them are in love with each other and with this other power.’”

Working with producer Shane Boris and two editors, Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput, Dosa put together the gripping lyrics that would take audiences into the magma-covered universe of their subjects. The creators initially considered having a voice-over in French, but during a brainstorming session, filmmaker and actress Miranda July’s name (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”) came up as an option.

“We thought Miranda would be perfect, not only because she is such a curious observer of the human condition herself, but because so much of her work deals with the strange beauty of what it means to not only be alive, but to be our relationships with each other. ‘ Dosha said.

Before meeting Dosa, July watched a short segment of “Fire of Love” that left her stunned. “I had an oddly emotional reaction to it. I felt tearful and out of breath just looking at this little piece,” July said over the phone.

When July met Dosa via Zoom, she realized that it wasn’t just Katia and Maurice’s journey that moved her, but also the realization of their story in the hands of this director.

“I discovered the source of my feeling, which was this person who leaned into the emotionality — the hot, liquid side of this material — in a way that I could easily connect with,” July noted. “I could see how useful my voice could be.”

“She brought so much wealth and vulnerability, strength and curiosity when she made her delivery,” Dosa said of July.

Working with Dosa, in turn, reminded July of her own artistic impulses. After several days of recording her part, July thought she was done until Dosa finally called her back to redo certain sections. As an example of what she was trying to achieve, Dosa July performed a meaningful scene with voice over. It blew her mind.

“Without trying to sound arrogant, I was surprised and it gave me a tingle,” July recalled. “Sara said, ‘I want that for the whole movie, and I have the parts that we need to redo.’ Now everyone in the room agreed.”

A smiling woman wearing a black dress.

“Fire of Love” director Sara Dosa.

(Erik Tanner/Outline by Getty Images)

In order for audiences to fully experience the visual elements, Dosa believed that the narration and editing had to exist in harmony. One of their mandates was to use volcanoes as an illustration of Katia and Maurice’s love language and the trajectory of their union: “In the beginning sparks would fly, then lava would bubble and boil, and we would culminate with bigger explosions than they dreamed themselves.” falling in love.”

And while conducting interviews with about 15 people who knew the couple, the filmmakers ultimately chose to insert their anecdotes into the narrative rather than insert speaking parts that would disrupt the protagonist-focused perspective.

The director has also embraced a geological methodology in her filmmaking: a willing acceptance that unanswered questions exist and that there is beauty in the unknown.

“Geologists like Katia and Maurice are studying the clues left by Earth processes to try to tell a story about creation through scientific language,” Dosa explained. “We wanted to take these clues, these bits of life that they left behind, their own imprints of their life processes, and interpret them through research as if we were scientists trying to understand them as best we could. And then tell a story about what we knew and also point out what we didn’t know and what would always go unrequited in our quest.”

For July, the footage the Kraffts left as a legacy was ripe for cinematic interpretation. “They were filmmakers and not just academic filmmakers,” July said. “They shot footage that would lend itself well to a narrative. You don’t shoot like that unless you think it’s going to clip together. What we are doing here really fulfills their vision.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-07-13/fire-of-love-true-story-volcano-romance ‘Fire of Love’ true story: Volcano lovers left behind footage

Sarah Ridley

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