Gabriela, History 475, Week 4

This weeks film entitled Gabriela was, in my opinion, the most difficult film so far to discern the historical significance from aside from the setting. After reading the articles from Besse and Caulfield as well as the text book much was revealed about what this film was intended to portray. Issues of gender roles and social status stuck out the most.

On the surface this film was simply the love story of two people and the difficulty they face in a society of turmoil. But it is the third party characters which really bring out the important historical themes. The Colonel that the audience never meets but only hears about through dialogue is convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover despite the fact that he found them in an adulterous state. Besse reveals that it was lawful for a man to kill his unfaithful wife for many years, and the practice continued even after the law was abolished. Understanding that the society portrayed in the film was functioning under the idea that this murderous act used to be lawful and now is not makes the shocked reactions at the verdict displayed by the characters more understandable.

Chasteen explains the idea of colonialism and western progression in the text. The idea that is most represented with this in the film is the cultural norms that halt progression, shown with the engineer who comes to survey the town and once he enters into an open relationship, causing drama, he is ‘forced out’ by the father who is not doubt backed by the colonels who run the town. Another way that this is shown is in Nacib’s hesitation to wed Gabriela because of her status. Brazil at this time of rapid change was trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’ and society understood and functioned on the idea that marriage was to further your status in life, and Gabriela would not do that for Nacib given that she was a poor and had ‘no papers’.

At the conclusion of the film, the audience can see what Besse and Caulfield explained in their articles about the changing society of Latin America. The conviction of the colonel made the town stop with surprise almost. Nacib takes Gabriela as his mistress once again and seems to not care that the town will talk, supposedly due to the changes happening, or the progression of society from old ways to new. This is difficult to see in the film, but understating the back ground of the time and the idea that Brazil was implementing new laws concerning ‘crimes of passion’ helps to explain it.

Besse says that the statics concerning these ‘crimes of passion’ could be exaggerated but the public opinion and popularity of the subject at this time leads one to believe that it was not unknown for these murders to be happening. When Nacib finds Gabriela in bed with another man, he does not hesitate to beat her. Another man stops him. If these crimes of passion were so rampant in Brazil, why did the man stop Nacib? It makes me think that Besse is right in that these statics and public opinion in newspapers were fabricated to stir society.