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Based on Maurice Murphy's childhood experiences during the war, when Italian POWs Alfredo (Steve Bastoni) and Joseph (Domenic Galati) are billeted with Dorothy (Lisa Hensley) and her three little children, while Dorothy's husband is fighting at the front. Also living with them are Jewish German refugees Frau Guttman (Gertaud Ingeborg) and her shy daughter Rachel (Tara Jakszewicz). The Italian soldiers become housekeepers and arms length friends, but Frau Guttman cannot reconcile herself to the strange place or the culture. A secret romance begins between Joseph and Rachel, leading to bitterness and drama at the otherwise calm outback home.

Review by Louise Keller:
One of my all-time favourite Australian film, I first saw 15 Amore at the Inaugural (and only) Noosa Film Festival in 1999. Made in 1998 and released in 2000, it has taken quite a while for the film to be available on DVD. This is a film that deserves to be seen and enjoyed, and hopefully it will now reach a larger audience.

Maurice Murphy's passionate, wonderful tale of an upside down world at a time when the world is in chaos, is an acutely moving observation from the point of view of a young boy.
His concise script and inspired direction engulfs us in a world where the inexplicable is customary, the little things are big, the perspective unique. Haunting music and indelible images caress our emotions as we encounter the innocent and the cynical side by side.

The world of 15 Amore is a curious mix of insects, animals, alien German refugees and Italian prisoners of war, who all live together harmoniously. Far from the war and located in a gloriously serene setting, this may appear to be an oasis of tranquility, but underneath the surface simmers a war of the human spirit. This is a world of passion, restraint, keeping up morals; the enemy is fear, longing, loneliness. But it's also a world filled with laughter, love and adventure. Isn't our childhood the happiest time of our life, after all?

The imbalance of life is explained simply on the tennis court. Dorothy serves the ball. She doesn't have an opponent, but Alfredo and Joseph chase the balls, debate heatedly over the calls, while the children stand on the sidelines and watch from the trees. It's 15 love. How can a civil game become a civil war? A perceptive look at cultural diversity - the restraint of the English, the bitterness of the Germans and the unbridled passion of the Italians: it's an irresistible mix.

Written in three weeks and filmed in as many, 15 Amore is compelling story-telling and superb filmmaking made on a tiny budget that looks anything but its real size. John Brock's glorious cinematography coupled with beautiful music to stimulate our senses guarantees an emotional adventure to cherish. Performances are superb - Lisa Hensley's understated Dorothy is perfectly complemented by the exuberant, giving Alfred (Steve Bastoni is simply wonderful).

The 36 minute 'Russian Ark' style feature on the DVD is a nostalgic trip with Murphy at the actual location where the events of 15 Amore took place. Confiding he has not been back to this property 80 kilometres north of Melbourne for more than 50 years, we first meet Murphy at the very spot where the tennis court used to be, and where Alfredo was playing tennis with his mother, calling out the words '15 Amore'. There's a real sense of place as Murphy points out the timeless oak and the rare pine trees which the original owners had planed in the 19th century.

Murphy is a natural storyteller, and with his unscripted, often hesitant delivery, recounts the story of how the film came to be made. From exaggerated tall tales about his youth, to winning Audience Favourite at the Aspen Film Festival in 1998 and beyond, this is a unique feature that brings context to the film, and allows us a personal connection with the man behind the film.

Poignant, moving and delightfully funny, 15 Amore will snatch your heart, just like it snatched mine.

Published: August 12, 2004

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15 AMORE: DVD (M, 1998)

CAST: Lisa Hensley, Steve Bastoni, Domenic Galati, Tara Jakszewicz, Gertaud Ingeborg

DIRECTOR: Maurice Murphy

SCRIPT: Maurice Murphy

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

DVD distributor: Magna Pacific
DVD release date: August 11, 2004
(no longer available)

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