Gabriela was based on Jorge Armado's novel Gabriela, Clove and Cinammon, which also served as the source of a typically steamy Brazilian TV soap opera. Set in 1925 (when the novel was first published), the film stars Marcello Mastrioanni as Nacib, a bartender in the Bahian village of Parati. When a drought descends upon the surrounding countryside, slovenly-but-sexy Gabriela (Sonja Braga) wanders into Parati with some friends and relatives. Immediately entranced by Gabriela's earthy sensuality, Nacib hires her as a cook and potential lover. Jealous of the attentions paid to Gabriela by the local menfolk, Nacib decides to marry her, then orders her to dress and behave in a more prudish fashion. But Gabriela can't help straying sexually, and as consequence it is Nacib who is forced to undergo the film's major character transformation.
by Hal Erickson synopsis