Immediately after watching Gabriela I was unsure what perspective to take on the film. It was extremely provocative and demeaning to both men and women in the Brazilian culture. After getting over the initial shock, I realized the film was meant to portray the political issues Brazil had in the past. It is difficult to think of adultery as a country wide issue but in fact it was at the time. It came as a disbelief to me that not only adultery but ACCEPTABLE MURDER was common. Susan K. Besse’s article highlights that Brazil does not have reliable documentation of the acts of adultery or murder that has gone on in the past. It was as if everything was not worthy of being noted.
An interesting hypothesis that her article also brought up was that these horrendous acts of passion were mainly committed by the middle class of society. She said that this was probably due to the rising urban-industrial society causing tension between the men and women in the middle class and also that the legal system was more likely to be in favor of their class compared to the lower. Gabriela specifically highlighted this hypothesis. The beginning of the film shows a country struck with drought and hard times. Gabriela arrives at a town in search for work and money after 40 days on the road to flee the drought. The town seems pretty well off but a lot of conversation lies around hard times and not much income from the middle class of bar owners (Mr. Nacib) and other business professionals who dominate the community. This causes conflict between the men and woman as Besse hypothesized.
An important scene in the beginning as well was when Mr. Nacib witnessed another townsmen kill his wife and her suitor who were in bed together. There was much uproar in the community about the murder, however the focus is not what one would expect. The man’s dead wife was looked at as a whore and not even worthy of a funeral service while her husband (and her murderer) was respected and cheered for his actions of murder. This was a prime example of the dominant middle class males manipulating the ruling of the community and women being exploited and given no respect.
No respect for women in this situation was highlighted in Sueann Caulfield’s article when she spoke of women as figures of family values. She said that, “Women, in their natural roles as mothers, were held to be responsible for
instilling moral values in society; by failing in this function, they were
responsible for its demoralization and degeneracy.” The woman who committed adultery in Gabriela had no one at her funeral service and only one supposedly ‘crazy person’ paid any remorse at her coffin-side. The killer was respected by all for his actions (today seen the worst of crimes) while an adulterer was an absolute disgrace to society (a lesser crime today). It is interesting to see how much society has changed since this time, for the better that is.