Camila is the story of a young girl who falls in love and runs away with a young priest. It takes place in Buenos Aires in 1847. At the time, Buenos Aires is under the rule of Govenor Rosas, a man who rules by fear and accepts nothing but complete submission of his subjects. He uses intimidation through propaganda and even assasination of any that oppose him. This is an important historical aspect to note because of its relevance in the modern times of Agrentina in which this movie was released. The movie came out in 1983, right after the Guerrilla Sucia of the 1970s and ’80s, during which the Argentinian government “disappeared” some 30,000 people. Governor Rosas is symbolic of the government at the time of the Dirty War because even though he never actually makes an appearance on screen, his presence is felt throughout the film. His portraits are ominously present in most scenes and his orders are carried out through his letters. This gives the audience the feeling that the Governor is always watching. He is an all-seeing, all-knowing presence in Buenos Aires in the same way Argentina’s government was able to disapper thousands of people without neighbors and family ever having any knowledge of it (Hart 2004).
O’Gorman, Camila’s father, also represents Govenor Rosas. In the film he is a cold, heartless, paternalistic man. He is so arrogant and proud that he will not even raise a finger to save his own daughter because he is convinced that she is unrprentant and willful. Historical O’Gorman actually seems to be quite different. He in fact tried very hard to bring his daughter home and to keep the situation quite as to avoid public scandal. He wrote letters to the govenor asking for his help in finding the two lovers and for his dicretion. However, the govenor quickly made it known exactly what had happened and who was involved when he had wanted posters put up with physical descriptions and full names of the runaways.
Feminism is another important elemnet of the film. Bemberg has always felt that Argentina is one of the most machista countries in the world (Hart 2004). For this reason Bemberg chooses to portray Camila as a willful romantic, a seductress of a priest. Historically it seems that the courtship of the two lovers took a more traditional route, but in the film Camila is the one that pursues the priest unitl he is unable to resister her any longer (Stevens). In similar stories, the women is always presented as the victim of a unvirtuous priest, but here Camila is the one take the innitiative.
Historically, people generally did not approve of the executions of Camila and Ladislao. Despite the fact that people tried to sway the Govenor’s decision, including his daughter Manuelita who was friends with Camila, he refused to listen. He made an example of the couple, but this actually only fueled those that already opposed him. After their execution, the Governor stated that no one even interceded on their behalf, which wasn’t the case at all.
The changes Bemberg made were for the purpose of melodrama. Historically, the movie is fairly accurate besides some romantic additions and the purpose of the film is achieved.