This week in class we watched the movie Gabriela. The movie is modeled after a time in Brazil where men were encouraged to kill their wives if they caught them in the act of adultery. Jose Britto wrote of the country during this time,” In Brazil, we are faced with an anomalous situation which indisputably places us among the most barbarous nations. We are at this moment the people who most often kill for love.” Britto was talking about a nation that was experiencing many murders involving passion. The practice of murdering your wife and her lover was not looked down upon in fact, you would be considered less of a man if you did not do it. Despite the gloomy outlook of Brazil, there was a growing hope that these barbarous times were coming to a close.
Like the movie depicted, with the arguing groups in Nacib’s bar, there was a liberal movement that was sweeping through the nation. This group wanted the old laws and practices to be abolished, so that a more modern era could be ushered in. Susan Besse wrote about the liberal movement,”With the collaboration of the powerful Judge Nelson Hungria and many of Brazil’s most prominent lawyers,…they vigorously pursued their ‘moral mission’ to end the indulgence, the sympathy, and the benevolence that Brazilian society had traditionally shown toward individuals accused of crimes of passion.” Chasteen, the author of Born in Blood, hypothesizes that Brazil wanted to become involved with European countries and enjoy trade with them. In order to be more accepted with these countries, Brazilian leaders felt it necessary to change barbaric practices and adopt a modern law system. With the help of prominent people in society this barbaric practice was slowed and was eventually ruled that a defense of passion would no longer hold in court. From a barbaric society , where killing your wife was praised, Brazil changed into a more modern society.
The movie Gabriela follows this time line rather nicely. At the start of the movie, the audience is witness to a husband catching his wife in the act of adultery and following through with murder. According to Besse, this was normal practice throughout the country during the early 20th century. The movie then begins to follow a Mr. Nacib who owns a local bar.The struggle between the conservatives and the liberals can often be seen in the conversations between the men that are patrons of Mr. Nacib’s bar. One day, Mr. Nacib is love struck when he sees the beautiful Gabriela. At first, Nacib only sees Gabriela as an object of lust, but he soon changes his mind because of other men’s lust for her. Nacib marries her but Gabriela’s sexual prowess is not satisfied by Nacib. Gabriela is soon discovered, by her husband Nacib, in the act of adultery. Unlike the beginning of the movie however, Nacib decides not to engage in the barbaric practice of murdering the adulterers. As in Brazilian history, the movie is witness to a change in customs and law practice.