Gabriela, a film by Bruno Barretto, is a story about Brazilian lovers who represent the gender roles during a time when Brazil was transitioning from a more traditional and male-oriented society to a liberal and progressive nation. Throughout the story, there are events that portray the up-and-coming presence of liberalism in South America. Political and social change came and the nation resisted as much as possible. A quote from a report in Vida Policia on the new forms of leisure and liberties demonstrates the overall resistance to societal change: “Nowadays the traditional modesty of the Brazilian family is no longer preserved. With football, modern dances swinging to jazz bands, and movies without the treasure of censorship, the germ of dissolution has found an environment for its proliferation, and the family, the very foundation of society, and not been exempted from it’s terrible and prejudicial contagion.” (Caulfield 157) Gabriela portrayed the liberties of the maid “a coherent identity within the prostitute category”. During this time women fell into two categories: mothers and prostitutes. With the rise of liberalism, women fell into new categories with the help of education and new opportunity. Gabriela was definitely not the maternal type.
Gabriela is an uneducated woman living in an upper class world with a husband, Nacib, a protective bar-owner who resists social change and encourages marital violence in the case of adultery. He wanted Gabriela to conform to the ways of upper-class women of the time, to behave in a certain way and demonstrate a positive example for the family. In one scene, Gabriela fights with Nacib over how she would rather go to the circus than attend a lecture on poetry. Gabriela ends up appeasing Nacib by attending the lecture, and later sneaking out to go to the circus. “Inflammatory reports on new forms of leisure and new liberties allowed women reiterated the theme of the family/nation in danger” (Caulfield 157)
Family and honor were considered most important to Nacib, who represents male resistance towards the rise of liberalism. However, after Nacib discovers Gabriela with a friend, he surprisingly acts less barbaric than expected. Social change was happening, and Nacib represents the public fear of breaking the traditional gender-roles and family structure. Crimes of Passion hit their peak when the fear of this was at its highest, “the perception that Brazil had been hit by an uncontrollable “epidemic” of crimes of passion was grounded not so much in any demonstrable reality as in projections of fear about the rapidity and uncertainties of change.” (Besse 657) Ironically, at the end of the film Nacib is reunited with his wife after annulling the marriage and losing his family and honor.