Camila (1984) is a not just a love story, but a movie that offers some insight into the role that women of Buenos Aires held in the 19th century. Camila O’ Gorman was the daughter of a prominent family in Argentina during the dictatorship of Juan Manuel de Rosas. Camila would defy her family, the church and society when she elopes with a Catholic priest. Because of her rebelliousness she would be executed beside the love of her life- her priest, and lover Ladislao Gutierrez.
In her film, Camila, Director Maria Luisa Bemberg portrays Camila as an intelligent, assertive, and passionate young woman. Camila wants what she wants and will get it even if it means defying her father, the Church and social canon. In Donald Stevens’ article Passion and Patriarchy in Nineteenth-Century Argentina Maria Luisa Bemberg’s Camila, he describes the parallels of Bemberg to her Camila. Bemberg like Camila was also born into a wealthy Argentine family, and also experienced intellectual and social oppression. When writing and directing the film Bemberg wanted to give women a voice- a voice that Camila and she did not have. Hart’s article states that this was important to Bemberg because she feels that Argentina is one of the most “Machista” countries in the world, and that there are double standards between men and women.
The film does a great job in portraying the patriarchal power that her father Adolfo O’Gorman held over her and the other women of the household. One of the first examples of this occurs when Adolfo’s mother arrives at the house, he doesn’t greet her with the love of a son to his mother but as a man who sees a woman who has disgraced her family, her country and herself. He doesn’t say welcome home, but instead tells her that he hopes she enjoys her confinement. He has disowned his own mother and feels that her being there is a burden and pox against the family. Adolfo believes that women have their place and must stay there, so his mother’s actions and eventually his daughters would go against everything he and elite society believe in.
Camila is also subjected to his supremacy. When she voices her opinions at the table, her father quickly chastises her and sends her away from the table. Her Father then turns to her mother and reprimands her, saying that Camila would not be so rebellious if she was married. If she was married then her husband would control her and make her conform to what he and society expects from a young lady.
Elizabeth Dore’s article One Step forward Two Steps Back- Gender and the State in the Long Nineteenth Century writes how the even local officials exerted their authority when it came to gender relations. Society’s role in gender relations was dictated by the elite and what they thought should be the proper behavior of men and especially women. The Church also had a powerful grip on the lives of women. The Church viewed women as temptresses and creatures that need to be guided towards being pious and devoted women not only to God but their husbands as well.
Women had their fathers, the church and society against them. They were constantly trying to have a say in some part of their lives. It must have been devastating to think that you could not control how you wanted to live your life. When Camila is executed, I believe that Bemberg is showing us that women’s rights are still being restrained and the image of Ladislao saying “I’m here Camila” represents that women’s voices are still here and waiting to be heard