Gabriela is a story of a young woman of low social class who falls in love with the Italian Mr. Nacib and has several instances of uninhibited sex with him. Their taboo love made it all the more dangerous and thrilling for them. However soon Nacib became jealous of the attention that Gabriela received from all the locals and wanted to stake his claim on her, he had her citizenship documents forged and proposed marriage to her, which she accepted, though indirectly and somewhat hesitantly. The Besse article refers to the “Law of Cain” which elaborates upon the concept of homicide as a result of infidelity, generally committed by the male partner. This idea comes into play when Nacib walks in on Gabriela and the gentleman from out of town, he mercilessly beats Gabriela then exposes the Notary Public for committing fraud and demands an annulment due to the forgery. This leads to Gabriela’s freedom from the bonds of marriage. It allows her to be herself once again, she no longer has to hide her illiteracy, she is free to enjoy childish entertainment such as the circus, and she is no longer forced to wear shoes and keep her hair up.
However people such as Gabriela were often criticized in society, a strong liberal and free willed woman could not easily fulfill the necessary role in the household, they had to be “docile and obedient… good cooks and housekeepers… as wet nurses, affectionate with the children” (Vida Policial) These “Ellas” had to be forcefully conformed to fit in the patriarchal structure of Brazilian society where women were either mothers or prostitutes.
So what was Gabriela? She was not a mother, she was a temptress, but does that make her the prostitute defined in the Vida Policial article? Well she was not a criminal, just a poor woman who was very sensual and seductive in the eyes of the people of the town. She loved her life but she was not the definition of the prostitute in the article, which would pen her as a petty criminal. Gabriela was very innocent minded, having a child-like perspective on life, she did not wanted to be tied down or forced to conform to the roles of the wife or the mother. She was happy with her role as a cook, even as Nacib’s mistress. In this role she could dress and do as she pleased, however once they married, Nacib forced a more conservative appearance upon her to hide her sexuality from the rest of the town. This did not fit her lifestyle, so she strayed as Nacib’s desire for her dwindled. This complex relationship unraveled quickly after this point and the relationship reverted back to a secretive mistress role of sneaking around and having wild sex.
Overall, this VERY sexual film discusses sexual roles in Brazil in the 1920s and the impact of the paternalistic structure and perception of women in this time on the “Gabriela” character.