Camila is the story of one woman and her struggle through a society dominated by patriarchy and dictated by authoritarian rule. Taking place in 19th century Argentina, the film has historical backing as an example of conflicts that surely took place between average citizens and the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas. As seen in the film, Rosas’ rule lacked rights granted to individuals such as freedom of speech and habeas corpus. Corruption was common among officials as well as members of the clergy. In this, Camila exists in a society she finds immoral and unjust. Influenced by readings and her eventual partner Ladislao Gutierrez, Camila voices her rebellious thoughts to the point that it will ultimately influence her father’s plea for her execution. Maria Luisa Bemberg’s Camila is the story of one woman’s struggle against a society rooted in and strangled by despotism that had seized Argentina in the 19th century.
Rosas’ theory that “twenty drops of blood shed at the proper moment may prevent the need to spill twenty thousand more” (Stevens, 98) has been the mentality of countless dictators throughout the history of South America. This theory has permeated governments that have consistently depleted the rights of individuals. It’s role in Camila encourages a sexist tradition which Bemberg highlights through her protagonist. As Elizabeth Dore explains, state policy withheld negative consequences for females (Dore, 5) as the hegemony of the elite class dictated the lives of the masses (Dore, 7). Camila’s father, a loyalist to Rosas, is a member of this upper class which retains a tyrannical hold over an oppressed people. As Gutierrez gives a homily attacking the regime, Camila finds her male counterpart to the issues of their time. In this, they form a clandestine relationship that is linked to their romantic ideals but open to the subjugation of both the church and state. As the film concludes, their utopian ideals finally clash with Rosas’ regime and patriarchal authority leads to their execution (Stevens, 99).
Bemberg’s depiction of 19th century Argentina constructs an unjust world for the individual under a state founded and operated by a governing body deaf to the pleas of its people. Camila and her lover Gutierrez formed a forbidden and rebellious relationship that was seemingly easy for the state to suppress. In a time of public displays of execution and constant censorship, Camila is one of a multitude of people that were forcibly silenced during the regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas.