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Laramie Movie Scope: Fire of Love

Love and volcanoes

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 22, 2022 – When I watched this documentary about volcanologists in love, it reminded me of “Dante's Peak” (1997) which also featured volcanologists in love. In “Dante's Peak,” volcanologist Harry Dalton suffers tragedy when his girlfriend, also a volcanologist, is killed by a volcano. He later heroically rescues a woman and two children from another volcanic eruption.

In “Fire of Love,” we meet two real volcanologists, Maurice Paul Krafft and Catherine Joséphine "Katia" Krafft who actually did fall in love, get married, and then continuously studied volcanoes together for years. Not only were the Kraffts scientists, but they were also photographers and filmmakers who gave lectures and made films of many volcanoes all over the world.

In fact the Krafft's vast film archive makes up the bulk of this documentary. The Krafft footage of volcanoes, most of it shot by Maurice Krafft, includes many spectacular volcano scenes, eruptions and aftermath scenes of the destruction caused by volcanoes. Katia Krafft, who had degrees in chemistry and physics, analyzed gas, rock, ash and soil samples from volcanic areas.

In addition to making films about volcanoes, the two also published a number of books on the subject. Their efforts to educate the public about the dangers posed by volcanoes are credited with saving thousands of lives when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991.

In this documentary, narrated by Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”) it is noted that Maurice and Katina grew up only a few miles apart in France and they both shared a love of volcanoes. When they started studying volcanoes in the 1960s, volcanology was a new field and few people were it it. Fewer still were making films and writing books about volcanoes the way the Kraffts were.

The Kraffts eventually came up with two classifications of volcanoes, “red” and “gray.” Red volcanoes, like Kilauea in Hawaii, are much safer to study than “gray” volcanoes like Mt. Saint Helens in Washington, which killed 57 people, including David A. Johnston, a volcanologist friend of the Kraffts, when it erupted in 1980.

After Johnston's death, the Kraffts dedicated themselves to studying gray volcanoes in the hopes of discovering ways to more accurately predict their deadly eruptions. The Kraffts were able to get spectacular film footage of a pyroclastic flow from one gray volcano. Pyroclastic flows are particularly deadly because they move so fast, up to 400 miles per hour.

The Kraffts were noted for their willingness to get very close to dangerous volcanic activity, such as fast lava flows and pyroclastic flows. Some of the more spectacular scenes filmed by the Kraffts makes it look like they are standing incredibly close to huge fountains of spewing lava. Volcanoes also hurl large, partially molten rocks, called “bombs” thousands of feet, and the Kraffts did set up camps within range of such bombs.

It is not too surprising then to learn that the Kraffts died together, killed by a pyroclastic flow from a volcano, Mount Unzen in Japan, on June 3, 1991. The eruption killed 41 people that day, including volcanologist Harry Glicken, along with some firefighters and journalists covering the eruption. The Kraffts were filming the eruption and were standing together when they died. Their ashes were placed in urns in the Shimabara Temple at the base of Mount Unzen.

The movie “Fire of Love” serves as a fitting tribute to the lives, careers and legacy of the Kraffts, as well as their love for each other and their dedication to the study of volcanoes. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2022 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]