Fire of Love: Volcanic Passion

””The saying goes that in romance, opposites attract. But for Katia and Maurice Krafft, this was not the case. Born in nearly the same place, at the same time, with the same passion, it seemed like the two could only have been meant for each other. Both loved volcanoes more than anything else, deciding as individuals and as a married couple to dedicate their lives to them. Katia and Maurice worked as volcanologists, scientists that study active volcanoes, and they documented much of their explorations within films, books, photographs, and more. It is this documentation that has been compiled to create the documentary Fire of Love (2022). Though the couple died in 1991 during the volcanic eruption of Mount Unzen doing what they loved, their memory lives on through this beautifully stitched-together archival footage. Fire of Love celebrates all levels of life and love, from the big - volcanoes and the earth they emerge from - to the small - humans and their unique bonds.

Katia and Maurice Krafft were attracted to a life studying volcanoes because they “were disappointed with humanity.” The wars and power struggles of humans seemed so minuscule and insignificant compared to the unknowable, eruptive power of the earth. Rather than waste their time living a “normal” life that they would never be happy in, the two spent their days chasing down volcanic eruptions to try and fulfill their neverending curiosity. Watching the footage Katia and Maurice made, one can clearly see their adoration and passion for these active volcanoes. Katia notes that she is more focused on the details. Throughout the film, she is seen sifting through ash, admiring rocks, and stroking craters. Maurice, on the other hand, cares about the big picture. He wants to be in the moment, as close to the lava flows and pyroclastic surges as he can be, oftentimes disregarding his own safety to satisfy his fascination.

The audience is drawn into their world, experiencing the same passion through the lens of the Kraffts’ camera. Fire of Love is a cinematographic masterpiece. Red hot lava shoots from volcanic craters, illuminating an otherwise dark sky. Thick magma sparks and oozes down the side of a mountain, only to form distinctly-shaped rocks when it meets the cool waters of the ocean. A couple dressed in silver protective gear looking like something out of a sci-fi movie galavant across mud and ash, forever pushing forward in their hope to learn more. The film is a love letter to volcanoes, in all their deadly glory.

But it is also a celebration of humans. Fire of Love honors the two volcanologists who provided so much information and knowledge to their scientific field. Moreover, it commemorates humanity at large. Though people may seem like specks compared to the vast earth, and like blips in time compared to the lifespan of geologic phenomena, they matter. Katia and Maurice recognized that while volcanoes brought inspiration and creativity to their lives, they also brought death and destruction to those living in their vicinity. Due to the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, 23,000 inhabitants were killed after the government refused to listen to geologists and other experts about the foreseeable danger. The volcanologist couple worked to remedy that government ignorance and negligence with their project Understanding Volcanic Hazards and Reducing Volcanic Risks. Putting together informational films and educational materials on the science of eruptions and the need for evacuations, Katia and Maurice succeeded in saving lives.

Fire of Love brings the big and the small together in an explosive documentary. The charm of Katia and Maurice Krafft shines through the screen, infecting viewers with their love for volcanoes and their love for each other. Their straightforward, unending passion for the mysteries of the earth and the bonds it can create make for a beautiful film.

Fire of Love plays at 8:30PM on December 1st at the Student Life Cinema.

Writer: Sarah Moloney
Artist: Judah Bachmann