Camila, directed in in 1984 by Maria Luisa Bemberg, is a tragic love story set in Argentina in the mid 19th century. Based on the true story of Camila O’Gorman and Ladislao Gutierrez, the film version does a wonderful job with the melodramatic portrayal of their sacrilegious love affair. “Bemberg’s film is faithful to the style of the period in many of its details as it brings a feminist perspective to the struggle between patriarchy and passion” (Stevens 86). On one hand, the audience is presented with the entertainment of a suspenseful drama, on the other hand, the brutal struggle that went on in Argentina in the time of “the Dirty War during the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, in which thousands of political subversives were captured by the authorities and ‘disappeared’ “(Hart 111).
In the story, young Camila, the daughter of a very prominent family, is ever pressured by her father to get married. Like any free spirited young girl in movies like these, she wants to get married for love, going so far to say when she was to get married, she wanted to be so proud of her husband she would want to go yell in the streets about it. Eventually falling in love with the new priest in town, they sacrifice everything to be together. This act goes against her family, upsets the government, and puts a stain on the church. Fleeing Buenos Aires to go live in the far away town of Goya, they settle in and set up a school. They are eventually recognized and killed by firing squad, side by side, even after it is discovered Camila is pregnant.
This brutal act of killing a pregnant woman, even though it was illegal at the time, was sent down by Rosas. This absent power is represented throughout the film, in paintings, through red ribbons worn by almost everyone, but is never seen. He is an all knowing, but detached power, therefore allowing him to be emotionless. “Bemberg chose this device in order to remind her audience of the sinister techniques of the Asociacion Anticomunista Argentina which, unseen by its victims or their next-of-kin ‘disappeared’ 30,000 people from 1976 until 1983″ (Hart 111).
Although the film is based in truth, there are, of course, discrepancies between it and reality. For example, Bemberg herself was very feminist. Therefore, the story is portrayed with Camila as the aggressor, defying her family and going after the man she loved, even though he was a priest. In other versions of the story, she is shown as an innocent, vulnerable young woman seduced by Gutierrez. Also, he is said to be a jesuit, when that would have not have been the case. Rosas “decreed their expulsion from the province of Buenos Aires in 1843 (four years before Ladislao arrived in the city)” (Stevens 90). When it come to him speaking out against the tyranny amoung them in one of his sermons, Rosas “hired assasins would have acted quickly on orders to silence such a person permanently” (Stevens 90-91). Also, when the couple run away together, they are shown slipping away during the afternoon nap on the farm as Ladislao arrives in a carriage. First of all, “the young lovers could not have afforded to bribe into secrecy the driver” (Stevens 91). Secondly, “all of the documentation makes it clear that they fled at night and on horse back” (Stevens 91). Bemberg probably added in this detail in order to make their first real embrace more dramatic. Overall, the film does a great job depicting the struggles the people of Argentina endured during this time period all while keeping the audience entertained.