Camila (film)

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Film Poster
Directed by María Luisa Bemberg
Produced by Lita Stantic
Written by María Luisa Bemberg
Beda Docampo Feijóo
Juan Bautista Stagnaro
Starring Susú Pecoraro
Imanol Arias
Héctor Alterio
Music by Luis María Sierra
Cinematography Fernando Arribas
Edited by Luis César D'Angiolillo
Release dates
  • 17 May 1984 (1984-05-17)
Running time 105 minutes
Country Argentina
Language Spanish

Camila is a 1984 Argentine drama film directed by María Luisa Bemberg, based on the story of the 19th-century Argentine socialite Camila O'Gorman. The story had previously been adapted in 1910 by Mario Gallo, in the now considered lost film Camila O'Gorman. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, marking the second time an Argentine film was nominated for this award.[1]


The film opens in the 1830's as Ana Perichon de O'Gorman is brought to house arrest in the hacienda of her estranged son, Adolfo O'Gorman. Adolfo, who resents his mother for embarrassing the family through an adulterous affair, treats her with unveiled contempt. Upon meeting her granddaughter, Camila O'Gorman, Ana asks whether she enjoys love stories. Camila responds that she doesn't know.

In 1847, Camila (Susú Pecoraro), has become a pillar of Buenos Aires society. Her father, Adolfo, enthusiastically supports Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas, whom he praises for bringing order to Argentina after the civil wars of the 1820s.. She is engaged to Ignacio, a wealthy society man with whom she is not in love. When her fellow socialites advise her to not let Ignacio get away, she describes her longing for a husband she could love and feel proud of. Secretly, Camila has been raised on her grandmother's stories about her affair and the surviving love letters from former Viceroy Santiago de Liniers. Just as secretly, she reads romance novels and books by political dissidents like Esteban Echeverría. Camila also openly speaks her views, which enrages her father. One day, during confession, she meets a Jesuit priest, Father Ladislao Gutiérrez (Imanol Arias). Camila immediately develops a crush on him, but after hearing Fr. Ladislao denounce the Leader's death squads from the pulpit, she falls deeply in love. Fr. Ladislao first attempts to beat his feelings for Camila out with a whip, but is unsuccessful. During the funeral of her grandmother, Camila learns that Fr. Ladislao has a live-threatening fever and rushes to his bedside. To her shock, she finds him gripping a handkerchief which she had given him, ostensibly as a gift to the poor but really as a token of her love for him. Upon his recovery, Fr. Ladislao finally surrenders to Camila's advances and hey begin a clandestine affair.

They escape the family hacienda and elope to Corrientes Province, where they pose as a married couple while Fr. Ladislao works as a school teacher. Camila is ecstatically happy and tells Ladislao how proud she is to be his, "wife." However, Ladislao remains torn between his love for Camila and a deep longing for the abandoned duties of his priesthood. They are identified, however, during an Easter fiesta by Father Gannon, a priest who knows them both. The village commandant informs Camila that he will not arrest them until morning and advises her and Ladislao to cross into Brazil.

However, Fr. Gannon's words about how, "God does not forget His chosen," have brought Fr. Ladislao's troubled conscience to a crisis. He runs to the village church and screams at the eucharist, demanding to know why God cannot leave him in peace. However, he decides that he must return to Buenos Aires, do penance, and continue his priestly ministry. The resulting delay prevents him and Camila from escaping and leaves the commandant with little choice other than to arrest them.

Meanwhile, Camila's father, Adolfo O'Gorman, is infuriated by how the family name has been dragged through the mud by Camila's actions. Despite the pleas of Ignacio and the rest of the family, he writes to the Governor and demands the death penalty for his daughter. With both the Church Hierarchy and his political allies demanding blood, and his exiled opponents using the scandal to mock his rule, Rosas issues an executive order for both Camila and Fr. Ladislao to be shot without trial.

In a military prison, Camila and Fr. Ladislao are forbidden to see each other. While imprisoned, Camila learns that she is carrying Fr. Ladislao's child. Heartbroken, she calls out the news from her cell, hoping that he will hear. Despite the fact that the Law of Argentina forbids the execution of pregnant women, Rosas refuses to delay or commute Camila's sentence. The prison chaplain gives Camila holy water to drink and thus baptizes her unborn child. Fr. Ladislao sends her a final letter affirming his love for her and saying that, because they could not be together on earth, they will be reunited in heaven before the throne of God. Soon after, Camila and Fr. Ladislao are tied to chairs, blindfolded, and carried before a firing squad in the prison courtyard.

The soldiers gun down Fr. Ladislao without a second thought, but they initially balk at killing a woman. When the Commandante threatens to shoot them if they refuse, they open fire and riddle Camila's stomach with bullets. Their bodies are then dumped into the same coffin.

The camera lingers over the soldiers, the courtyard, and the Argentine flag, before panning to the bodies of Camila and Ladislao in the coffin. Their final words are repeated in voiceover: "Ladislao, are you there?" - "By your side, Camila".



No actor portrays Dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas and his actions are inferred only from the statements of other characters. This, and his constant presence in portraits, have caused some film critics to compare him to the ubiquitous Big Brother from George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Historical inaccuracy[edit]

In the film, the Roman Catholic Church is depicted as unconditionally supporting Rosas' dictatorial rule. Father Ladislao Gutierrez is inaccurately depicted as the sole exception among the clergy. From his first appearance at Camila's birthday celebration, Fr. Gutierrez is rebuked by his fellow Jesuits for not wearing the Scarlet insignia of the ruling Federalist Party. One of his superiors then pins the Rosista badge on the cassock of a visibly uncomfortable Fr. Gutierrez. Later, when he denounces Rosas' police state tactics from the pulpit during Mass, the senior pastor of the parish also rebukes him. In reality, the Society of Jesus, in which both Fr. Gutierrez and Camila's brother were priests, was the only institution within Argentine Catholicism which actually had a policy of speaking out. Their vocal criticism of his rule ultimately caused Rosas to sign a decree expelling all Jesuit priests from Argentina.[2][3]

Camila's father, Adolfo O'Gorman, is depicted as a tyrannical autocrat who, in the words of one reviewer, "makes Elizabeth Barrett Browning's father look like Santa Claus."[4]

Adolfo's response to Camila's elopement is to blame her for the scandal which has ruined his good name. Adolfo's hatred of his daughter and obsession with making her pay causes Camila's mother to curse the day she married him.

Recent scholarship, however, has painted a very different picture of Adolfo O'Gorman. In a letter to Rosas sent immediately following his daughter's elopement, Adolfo O'Gorman placed the blame squarely on Fr. Ladislao Gutierrez. Fr. Gutierrez had, he said, seduced his daughter, "under the guise of religion." Adolfo further described himself and his family as heartbroken and pleaded that his daughter be rescued from the man he regarded as her abductor. Scholars who have read the letter believe that Adolfo genuinely loved his daughter.[5]

When her husband refuses to ask for clemency, Mrs. O'Gorman laments no one cares about her daughter's life. Adolfo, she says, cares only about his honor, Rosas and the Church about maintaining their power, and the Unitarian opposition about using the scandal for political gain. "But no one," she shouts, "cares about my daughter!"

In reality, a large number of people begged Rosas to grant clemency, including the Leader's own daughter, Manuelita. Rosas' decision to ignore their pleas and execute a pregnant woman horrified his supporters and, according to some historians, contributed to his subsequent overthrow.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The 57th Academy Awards (1985) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  2. ^ Leslie Bethell (1993), Argentina Since Independence, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43376-2 Page 27.
  3. ^ John Lynch (2001), Argentine Caudillo: Juan Manuel de Rosas, Scholarly Resources, Wilmington, DE. ISBN 0-8420-2897-8 Page 85.
  4. ^ "New York Times," March 15, 1985
  5. ^ Adolfo O'Gorman's Letter to Juan Manuel de Rosas, December 21, 1847

External links[edit]