creature features: frankenstein (james whale, 1931)
geezer cinema: the beekeeper (david ayer, 2024)

film fatales #193: fire of love (sara dosa, 2022)

This is the eighteenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 18 is called "Golden Brick Week":

My (Adam Graff’s) favorite podcast about movies is Filmspotting (𝖘𝖊𝖙𝖍𝖊𝖓𝖘𝖙𝖊𝖎𝖓: Me too!). For me, the hosts have the perfect blend of genuine insight in their reviews and top five lists to participatory fun like their Massacre Theater segment where listeners guess movies based on their very bad acting of a scene to their March Madness when listeners spend the month determining things like who the best director working today is or what is the best movie of the 90s. The hosts are affable and thoughtful and stay focused on films throughout the podcast, without sacrificing a personal touch.

One feature of Filmspottting is their annual Golden Brick Award, intended to honor underseen films, which is presented to the best film of the year that is not mainstream, made by a relatively new filmmaker, and that shows a clear directorial vision or artistic ambition. This week, watch a movie that was nominated for a Golden Brick from Filmspotting’s own Letterboxd list and give them a listen if you haven’t already.

Fire of Love is an Oscar-nominated documentary about two French "volcanologists", Katia and Maurice Krafft, and their relationship with each other and with volcanoes. Both are fascinated with the latter ... one could say obsessed ... they make a fine team because they share that fascination. The "love" of the title refers to their love for each other ... the "fire of love" adds volcanoes to the picture. It feels like something Werner Herzog might film, and in fact, Herzog released his own documentary about the Kraffts, The Fire Within, that same year. I haven't seen it, but I have seen other Herzog documentaries, and he usually manages to work himself into the situations he is presenting. Sara Dosa, working with writers Shane Boris, Erin Casper, and Jocelyne Chaput (with Casper and Chaput also serving as editors) artfully hide themselves ... the film is almost entirely archival footage, much taken by the Kraffts, with no after-the-fact interviews. It feels as you are watching as if the Kraffts are the ones who made the movie, and I imagine if they could see it, they'd be pleased (they ended up dying in 1991 during a volcano eruption).

But Fire of Love also features a running narration, read by Miranda July. I found nothing wrong with July's reading, but the narration does tend to impose a direction to what we see. Between that and the editing, you come to understand that despite being at the center of the picture, the Kraffts are not the real authors of this film. Dosa hides herself, but in plain sight.

The Kraffts are very interesting, and their love of their work together helps to overcome the moments (and there are many) when you wonder just what these crazy people are going to do next. Dosa tries hard not to pass judgement on the couple, and mostly succeeds. I found myself wavering at times, but the Kraffts kind of invite that. Also, we get to watch from the comforts of the theater or our living room, while the Kraffts are often right next to the flowing lava. We risk nothing by watching the movie ... the Kraffts risk everything on a regular basis, and are aware of the possibilities. They just can't deny what they see as the beauty of the earth. And their footage offers remarkable evidence that the earth really is alive.


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