Maria Luisa Bemberg’s 1984 film Camila presents a true story of forbidden romance. In true Romeo and Juliet fashion, society forbids two lovers to be together. Camila O’Gorman is a young socialite from an influential Argentinean family. Ladislao Gutierrez is a Jesuit priest who has taken vows of celibacy to God. Under Cannon Law, a romance between Camila and Ladislao is strictly forbidden and any such relationship would be punishable by death. When the two lovers elope and run away to a small unknown village, they hope they will be able to live normal lives together, in love. Unfortunately they are discovered and sentenced to death by Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas. Rosas is so infuriated by their actions, that even when Camila is found to be pregnant, Rosas orders the executions to be carried out on schedule. The film’s final scene shows the two lovers being executed by a firing squad, and placed inside a coffin together. The movie portrays this historical event, but has historical inaccuracies.
In the film, Camila’s father Adolfo O’Gorman has no sympathy for his daughter. He sees her actions as a stain on the family’s good name. He does not believe she will ever repent of her sin, and believes she will chose love over what is right. Therefore, Bemberg shows Adolfo writing a letter to Rosas condemning her to death. In the letter he says, Camila’s decision is “the most atrocious act ever heard of in this country.” History shows that Adolfo did indeed write those words to Rosas, however, the movie portrays the letter as an order for Camila to be punished with any means necessary. In real life, Adolfo was telling Rosas that he understands the implications of Camila’s sacrilegious choice to marry a priest, but asks for his aid in helping his daughter, and preserving the O’Gorman family name. Elizabeth Dore writes that Spanish American governors of the nineteenth century saw their job as a patriarchal one. They were in power to protect, aid and reward their children, and punish them if they stepped out of line. Adolfo simply asked the patriarch of his country to save his family’s name, and help his daughter out of a tough situation. Unfortunately, Donald F. Stevens tells us that Rosas took Camila’s actions as a personal insult and act of defiance. In order to assert his own authority over an unruly subject, he had no choice but to hand down the most severe punishment for the offense, death, even though she was pregnant.
Rosas’s decision to have a pregnant 20 year old girl executed proved fatal for his political career. People that were once loyal to Rosas questioned his decision. Others who were loyal to Rosas before and after Camila’s death felt that he acted incorrectly. Antonio Reyes, the jailer who imprisoned Camila, was a staunch supporter of Rosas before and after the incident occurred. However, he treaded Camila very well, going as far as to give her the lightest shackles he could find and padding them with cloth. He could not bring himself to witness the execution and said many times that he felt Rosas made the wrong decision. The execution of Camila O’Gorman and Ladislao Gutierrez is one reason Rosas was overthrown in 1852, just four short years after the death of the two lovers.