Their union not only produced a trove of astonishing imagery that can be endlessly reworked and put to a variety of uses, it gave any future filmmaker who wanted to tell their story a handy metaphor for love, passion, obsession, and commitment. From the opening images of the Kraffts driving a jeep through snowy tundra and pausing to unstick the vehicle from an ice patch, we get scene and after scene and shot after shot that serves its own narrative function while seeming as if it’s also serving as a metaphor or symbol (even when it isn’t). Movies that are made this way can be endlessly re-watchable because they don’t put too fine a point on the various possible secondary associations, instead giving the viewer a bit of room in which to muse and fantasize and make their own connections.
Directed and cowritten by Sara Dosa (“The Last Season,” “The Edge of Democracy”) and narrated by filmmaker-actor-artist Miranda July, “Fire of Love” is one of a vanishingly rare breed of documentary that is determined to be “total cinema,” not just capturing the facts of what happened to its subjects but creating an entire aesthetic—a vibe—around them. As directed by Dosa and cut by editors Eric Casper and Jocelyn Chaput (who have already received an award for their work here, and deserve more), “Fire of Love” is not content to toss a series of arresting images collected by other filmmakers on the screen, even though the result still would’ve been riveting even if they had.
Instead, they’ve made something paradoxically unassuming yet grand—a movie with a churning, flowing, volatile life force, befitting the topic that obsessed the Kraffts. Like “Apollo 11,” “Summer of Soul,” “The Velvet Underground” and an array of esteemed predecessors (including Godfrey Reggio’s visually driven, quasi-experimental documentaries) this is a nonfiction film that could be shown on an IMAX screen and marketed as a spectacle. This writer saw it on a laptop and was mesmerized by it, but would love to see it projected on an enormous screen someday.