Gabriela – Mas skin y arm pit hair

Released in 1983, Gabriela is a Brazilian film that tells the story of a woman who becomes a cook, a mistress, and eventually a wife for a bar owner named Nacib. The film is set in a coastal town in Brazil around the year 1925. The storyline aims to show the societal pressures and attitudes towards women and their sexuality during this time period.

Gabriela begins with the main character (Gabriela) wondering into a small coastal town in search for water during a drought. She meets a man named Nacib who is looking for a cook to work at his bar who decides to offer her the position. Soon enough, Nacib and Gabriela become lover’s and Gabriela begins to gain much attention throughout the people of the town. All the attention that Gabriela is receiving becomes quite apparent to Nacib and he decides to ask her hand in marriage, hoping to change her status. For a while, the marriage flows steadily but Nacib begins to grow irritated with Gabriela’s unenlightened ways. This becomes more and more apparent and before we know it, Nacib catches Gabriela in bed with another man. Nacib decides to annul the marriage, leaving Gabriela to fend for herself. The movie ends with Nacib accepting Gabriela back into his home and her becoming his mistress again.

This film makes it extremely apparent of the societal customs and attitudes towards the opposite sex during this time period. In the years between 1910 through 1930’s it became common for women in Brazil to be murdered for committing the act of adultery. Whether it be the woman’s husband, fiance, lover, etc. if he caught, knew, or even heard she had committed adultery, it was legal for him to kill her and the others involved in the act. Pretty quickly this became out of control and women decided they needed to take matters into their own hands. Quoted from a Rio De Janeiro newspaper “A Esquerda”, it was time for women to stand up and fight against “masculine cowardliness which stalks to kill.” Women declared they would result to violence, if something was not done to ensure their safety. In the beginning of Gabriela, Nacib finds a woman and the lover murdered by the woman’s husband, who had apparently caught them in the act. Through out the movie, it becomes evident that nothing was going to be done to the man who committed the murders, clearly showing how society viewed adultery as well as murders committed out of passion and emotions.

Strategically setting this film in the 1925, the movie was able to show us, from the beginning when Nacib finds the mudered couple to when Nacib finds Gabriela in bed towards the end of the movie, that society was changing and that although Nacib could have killed them both, he decided against it.

Another quite evident theme noticed throughout the film, was there was little or no presence of law enforcement. The people handled matters of crime in their own ways. For example, when Nacib finds one of his workers stealing from him, he almost kills him but doesn’t when he learns of Gabriela’s cheating. Law enforcement and the judicial system in Brazil during this time, were overlooked quite frequently by society. Most likely this was because they had little presence but also because the views on committing crimes were biased. In the article “Getting into Trouble: Dishonest Women, Modern Girls, and Women-Men in the Conceptual Language of ‘Vida Political” ,when talking about Vida Policial (a journal made public by the Rio police) it states “It was clear from Vida Policial articles that gender structured the conceptual system of criminological knowledge and that sexuality was a primary concern for law enforcement”.

The films storyline and plot most definitely helped to characterize the perceptions of the Brazilian societies during the first half of the 20th century. It helped to show how women were depicted as well as how they thought of themselves within society. Overall, Gabriela, despite excessive nudity and cultural hygiene/grooming differences, is a good and interesting love story that displays many socially historical themes.