Camila (1984)

When thinking of the history of Argentina, a Jesuit priest with a secret lover does not typically come to mind. The 1984 film Camila, however, paints a different picture of Argentina’s history. The story takes place in Buenos Aires and focuses primarily on a Jesuit priest named Gutiérrez and a young woman named Camila. Gutiérrez was new to Buenos Aires; once he entered the film, it was obvious the plot was about to take a romantic turn. The two fall in love and eventually run off to another village. Once they are caught by a priest, they are given the death penalty for sacrilege and sent out to the firing squad. After looking deeper into the film, rather than taking it at face value, one can begin seeing actual history dealing with the Latin American nation of Argentina.

Stephen M. Hart’s summary of Camila highlights key aspects of the movie’s relation to Argentina’s more recent history. He relates the film to the ‘Dirty War’ of the mid-1970s to early 1980s where thousands of political figures disappeared and were never heard from again. This could be related to the book seller’s murder early in the film. Even though he did not technically disappear, he was instead murdered because of promotion of aspects of rights and freedoms the government did not agree with at the time. Another strong argument Hart makes to support his belief of the film’s modern history relation is his example of Camila being a very strong character. He states that director Bemberg is a stron promoter of feminism. This is quite obvious because of Camila’s role in the movie. Not only being capable of reading sophisticated/banned books, she is also able to provide unconditional love to her secret Jesuit lover during difficult times. Although her passion for love may come off as idiotic to some, it is also arguable it is what made her a strong and determined woman unlike her lover who always seemed to be whining over his own careless mistakes.

Bemberg is also depicted as a feminist supporter by Donald F. Stevens as well. In Steven’s summary of Camila, he gives a more biographical approach to director Bemberg’s life. According to Stevens, Camila has been one of the most successful films to come out Argentina. Just like Hart, he credits most of this success to Bemberg’s production style. Making Camila a very strong character is a main argument for the success of this film. Without this perspective on the film, Camila would have likely been weak minded and easily controlled instead of being capable of seducing a Jesuits heart and out of his oath. Stevens also puts the film describes the actual history of the characters and how their positions came about. Instead of concerning himself with recent history, Stevens describes the actual history going on in the mid-19th century in Buenos Aires.

In conclusion, after analyzing Camila from different a different aspect, it is obvious that the movie had deeper meaning than a simple romance story. Even though Elizabeth Dore would probably disagree, Hart and Stevens would make the argument that Camila‘s success and main theme was centered around a woman’s strength in a time dominated by men. Dore, however, would argue that women in Latin America were different than women in the United States and Europe. She argued in her work on gender in the 19th century that women held more rights and privileges than their counterparts in the rest of Western culture. Regardless of women’s rights in 19th century Latin America, Bemberg succeeded in making Camila a very sophisticated character compared to many males in the film.