Great documentaries don’t come along that often. A year without at least one superb fictional film released, destined to be recognised as great once the dust settles, is a strange year. Often, there’s a handful. With non-fiction, truly great films, that stand the test of time, arrive on a slower schedule.
When they do come along, though, watching them in the cinema can take you places other films can’t. You don’t get lost in the narrative as much as pulled in and engaged. They can inspire you more directly, without the filter of a fictional world and scripted lines and moments.
Audience reactions watching non-fiction in the cinema are different, too. You hear and see reactions in the movie theatre that are authentic and unfiltered, in contrast to the ones staged and skilfully manipulated by fiction. It is a different, great cinema experience of its own.
Fire of Love is a superb documentary, built around an incredible archive of beautiful and awe-inspiring volcano footage. It is also unusual for a non-fiction film: it has artistic visuals and a sense of playful adventure usually reserved for fiction.
Recently I saw a trailer for Werner Herzog’s upcoming film, The Fire Within: Requiem for Katia and Maurice Kraft. It takes the two French volcanologists, who were briefly and memorably included in Into the Inferno (2016) — Herzog’s previous feature about volcanoes — and makes them its subject.
The trailer knocked me out, and the fact Herzog had went back to explore the footage of Katia and Maurice Kraft six years later in a more expanded form spoke for itself.
I made a mental bookmark to look out for Herzog’s film, resigned to the fact it likely wouldn’t get enough distribution for me to watch in the movie theatre. Cinema distribution is a little fucked up right now, and Herzog documentaries don’t get great distribution at the best of times.
So when I saw the poster for Fire of Love at my local independent cinema, fireworks went off in my mind. I…