In Maria L. Bemberg’s feature film Camila is a vivid and provocative introduction to 19th century Argentine history (Stevens 85). This film is based on the true love story of Camila O’Gorman, a headstrong young woman from a wealthy family and Ladislao Gutierrez, a Catholic priest. Camila falls in love with the Catholic priest against her father’s will, who is a loyal follower of the Argentine Federalist dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas. They run off together and elope. While living together as husband and wife, they pose as school teachers until one night a man discovers their true identities. They are captured the next morning, even though they were given the opportunity to flee, and put in jail. While incarcerated, Camila found out she was pregnant; however, they both were sentenced to death by a firing squad.
Maria L. Bemberg stated about her film that, “Camila was a transgressor, she broke the received pattern of Argentine, not to mention feminine, decorum. Not only did she enjoy a love affair with her priest, but her actions fought the paternalistic order – another triangle – of family, church, and state” (Stevens 87). The road to production of this film was tough for Bemberg because her own family didn’t want her to do the film Camila. She started filming the day after Raul Alfonsfn took power in Argentina, despite what her family wanted. She believed that she would not have been able to create Camila under the old military regime (Stevens 87). Even though there was no official censorship now, the Church did create obstacles for Bemberg on certain aspects of the projects; however this did not stop her from success. Bemberg did have a failed marriage but this did not stop her from utilizing her Roman Catholic beliefs, which were portrayed in the film (Stevens 88). Just like Camila and Ladislao’s tough love in the film, Maria L. Bemberg’s journey creating Camila was a tough struggle, but she eventually created a masterpiece which was nominated for an Oscar.
Throughout the film, Camila is treated with tough love. Her relationship starts off rocky between her and the priest. She is the one who is chasing after him, and he denies his feelings for Camila at her. As stated earlier, Bemberg used her Roman Catholicism to influence Camila’s character…”She believed it helped her with the Church that, in her version of the story, the priest was the pure one, seduced by the romantic Camila” (Stevens 88). Bemberg did a great job at portraying real women and real life during this time period. The fact Ladislao was the “victim” of Camila’s love, made their love story that much more real because normally, the man is the one chasing after the woman. Furthermore, Camila’s relationship with her father was tough as well. “In one of the film’s first scenes, Camila worries that her father will kill the litter of new kittens she has found, and he does. He keeps his own mother imprisoned in a tower and tries to prevent Camila from visiting her” (Stevens 92). He also strikes her brother Eduardo in the face when he tells him the news of Camila and Ladislao running off together (Stevens 92). Her father is portrayed as a strict, tough, devoted follower to Rosas. He writes a letter to Rosas about his daughter trying to save whats left of her reputation stating that the priest was the one who seduced his daughter and she was only lost in her ways. However, in the end, Camila’s mother and brother pled to her father as he writes to Rosas not to allow them to kill Camila. He refuses and Camila and Ladislao die by a firing squad.
Bemberg’s does a great job of portraying Argentina’s history of the family, church, and state in Camila. The struggle for love surrounding the film was very distinguished, but also allowed the viewer to interpret their own feelings towards Camila and Ladislao’s tough, but inspiring love story.