“One step forward, two steps back” is how Elizabeth Dore described gender equality during the 19th Century independence movement. During this time, women had little rights and faced a patriarchal society. The director of Camila, Maria Luisa Bemberg, does well at showing a society unkind to women, but she does not give a complete picture of the events. As a feminist herself, she ignores the male perspective by just giving the feminine perspective. Also, she mixes facts to enhance drama. So, this film is historically accurate in some parts but not as a whole.
It is accurate with its depiction of a patriarchal society. In the film, Camila’s father says women must be tamed—either by getting married or joining a convent. This shows how little men thought of women in society. Men believed they were superior to women. In several scenes, Camila remarks that revolutions are starting again just like when she was a young girl. Yet, the revolutions don’t affect gender equality in any way. Women do have small gains with education: Camila appears to be very educated. But, according to the textbook, society underwent no profound changes with revolutions. After independence, women still had little rights, even though many of them fought in the battles for independence.
Furthermore, the state reinforced its view that men dominated women by its “Liberal Contract.” In the reading by Elizabeth Dore, it says Carole Pateman called it the “sexual contract.” Under the contract, men could become citizens at a younger age if they married early. So, the state used marriage to control society. Marriage became a tool of politics, surely not something to do because of love.
But Camila rebels against the state’s view of marriage. She shows her view on marriage as her sister is getting married out of utility—not out of love. Camila dreams about getting married out of love.
Camila’s rebellion portrays the film’s feminist message. In the reading by Donald F. Stevens, it says Bemberg separated from her husband at a time when divorce was outlawed. She raised her children without the aid of her husband. Bemberg found an understanding of her situation in feminist literature and even tried to form feminist groups, but military governments prevented them from materializing.
Bemberg’s goal is clearly to enforce women strength. According to the reading by Stephen M. Hart, she does that by showing Camila as stronger than Ladislao. After all, Camila is the one who initiates the forbidden love affair. She is set on the idea that she loves the priest, and so she goes after it. No one can tell her what to do. Even though she loses her life and the life of her lover, Bemberg seeks to say that it was all worth it. This is shown through the hopeful last scene: the voiceover from Ladislao as he and Camila are dead, lying next to each other in a sort of coffin. It says that their love is eternal and transcends the physical.
This film would not have been allowed to be produced before it was. Stevens said the story of Camila had been censored before. Luckily for Bemberg, Raul Alfonsin was democratically elected in Argentina. She began filming for this film the day after he was elected.
Since Camila is a product of the director’s goal, it does not give a complete picture of history. For example, it leaves out historical accuracies of the film’s men. Stevens said Ladislao was not a Jesuit priest, and Ladislao’s sermon condemning violence of the murder of the bookseller would not have happened. If Ladislao had given such a sermon, Governor Rosas would have had assassins take the priest out. In addition, Bemberg doesn’t correctly portray Camila’s father. At the end of Steven’s reading is a letter Camila’s father wrote to Governor Rosas begging him to save Camila. He blames the incident on Ladislao, saying the priest seduced Camila. In the film, Camila’s father acts the opposite. He is condemning and harsh towards Camila once the incident occurs.
So, this film is effective at portraying a 19th century patriarchal society and a feminist perspective of history, but it leaves out some facts while communicating that message.