Friday 11 August 2023

The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft [2022]

 Werner Herzog, in The Fire Within, didn’t intend to make either a conventional biography or a straightforward hagiography of eminent French volcanologist couple Katia and Maurice Kraft. His objective, rather, was to compose a personal interpretation of their legacy, by resorting to the stunning archive of footage and photos that they’d left behind prior to their demise in 1991 (they were both killed by the pyroclastic flow from Mount Unzen in Japan). The result was a fierce and enrapturing essay filled with brooding atmosphere, ironic observations (delivered by Herzog in his customary deadpan voiceover), idiosyncratic moments, and breathtaking visuals. The narrative provided a fascinating peek into the Krafts’ transition over the years from wannabe scientists who recorded their experimentations in amateur home videos, dressed at times in oddball outfits to enable proximity to high temperatures, to grand filmmakers who – as Herzog quipped – “were shooting a whole film about creation in the making… they just didn’t have enough time left to edit it” through mesmeric visuals that silently captured the ferocious power of volcanos, and even quirky humanists deeply invested in the devastating human, sociological and ecological impacts of volcanos. The couple’s captivating journey and their shared, unwavering obsession with this frightening force of nature was bookended on either side by reportage on their fateful trip to Japan, while in between we see their visits to diverse places – Italy, Iceland, Hawaii, Alaska, Indonesia, Colombia, etc. – in their quest for fire and love, including a couple of truly near misses. As an interesting aside, 2022 saw another well-received documentary on the Krafts, Fire of Love by Sara Dosa, while Herzog himself had earlier made one on active volcanos, Into the Inferno.

Director: Werner Herzog

Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Biopic

Language: English

Country: US

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