Camila and Argentina
Maria L. Bemberg’s Camila is the story of two lovers, Camilla a young Argentinian socialite vying for true love falls in love with a Catholic priest, they runaway together and are eventually executed for their actions. The movie is set in the mid nineteenth century in Argentina in a patriarchal society under the rule of Juan Manuel de Rosas. Bemberg explores various aspects of Argentinian society within the love story.
Bemberg looks at gender roles in Argentina, and explores many aspects of feminism. Women had very few liberties in the patriarchal society of Argentina. Marriages were arranged according to social class, women were told what they could and could not read, and the male head of the household made the decisions. Bemberg’s character challenges this way of thinking. Camila represents a new breed of Argentinian women. Bemberg aims to empower women by telling the story from Camila’s perspective. You sympathize with Camila’s desire to read what she wants, love who she wants, and live how she wants outside of her father’s desires. Bemberg uses the patriarchal family structure and female oppression to highlight the broader issue of the Argentinian oppression under the rule of Rosas.
The movie looks at Argentinian society under the rule of Rosas. Hart discusses the importance Rosas played in the film. He mentions that while he is never actually seen, his presence is always weighing on society. He ruled with strict discipline and limitless power. The inability of Camila and Ladislao to escape from his grasp even after moving to a remote village demonstrates his power. The imprisonment and brutal murder of Ladislao and that of the pregnant Camila demonstrate the ruthlessness in which he ruled. The fact that Camila was a wealthy socialite did not even stop him from executing her. While we see plies for mercy from top ranking officials on down to the hesitance of the executioners to shoot Camila, no one dared disobey Rosas order, no matter how inhumane they were. The film was also used by Bemberg to shed light on the much more recent incidents which occurred in Argentina in the seventies and eighties. Bemberg highlights the fear and violence which occurred in the Dirty Wars in her tragic love story.
I touched on the female gender roles in the movie but I think it is also necessary to look at the male characters in the movie. While Camila represents progress and liberty the male characters represent the anchor forbidding progress. Her father oppresses her by telling her what she can and can not do. He is a product of society under Rosa and an enabler of progress. Padre Gannon is villainized as the man who rats them out. All of the male government officials are incapable of doing the right thing for fear of Rosas. All of the men are incapable of making their own decisions even Ladislao who succumbs to his higher authority, Jesus, instead of riding off with Camila the night before their capture.