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Series / Força de um Desejo

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Força de um Desejo is a Brazilian telenovela produced by Rede Globo, and written by Gilberto Braga. It aired in Brazil between 1999 and 2000 with 226 episodes.

Featured Malu Mader, Fábio Assunção, Cláudia Abreu, Marcelo Serrado, Selton Mello, Nathália Timberg, Lavínia Vlasak, Isabel Fillardis, Louise Cardoso, Reginaldo Faria, Sônia Braga, Denise Del Vecchio and Paulo Betti in leading roles.

The telenovela is one of Rede Globo's most ambitious projects as it is a Costume Drama (with some Western and Mystery Fiction thrown in) set during the second half of the 19th century (the 1860s) and also the plot had as its backdrop remarkable facts of Brazilian history, such as the Paraguayan War and the abolitionist movement. Also the ambition of the production shows in many factors: the cast was fairly inclusive, as many prominent characters were black or mixed-raced; while the historical datas as not white-washed and the brutality of slavery was well-represented. Many famous works set in the 19th century were an influence on the characters and costumes (Camille (1936), The Leopard, and Shane cited by the production team).

The plot is quite thick. In spades, Higino Ventura is a former peddler who became wealthy from shady dealings and bought the Morro Alto farm in Vila de Santa Ana, to get closer to his lost love, Helena Silveira. The woman is married to baron Henrique de Sampaio Sobral and has two sons, Inácio and Abelardo. Ventura is willing to do anything to win back Helena but she has moved on from him, still while her marriage is unhappy because an unstated secret divides her and Henrique, who mistreats her.

Their firstborn, Inácio leaves the estate for Rio De Janeiro after calling out his father over his treatment of his mother. In Rio de Janeiro, he meets Ester Ramos Delamare, a beautiful courtesan and owner of the most famous and exquisite salon. The two fall in love and Esther decides to abandon her worldly life to live a relatively poverty with Inácio while he carries on his studies. However, Inácio' scheming grandmother, Idalina Menezes of Albuquerque Silveira fears her grandson's marriage with a lower- class girl and writes a breaking letter to Esther with Inácio' counterfeit signature. The shenanigan works and the two are separated.

Inácio' mother meanwhile dies of a sudden illness, leaving her husband and sons devastated by Helena's death and her husband with crippling feelings of guilt for mistreating his wife, and leaves decides for a long trip to Rio De Janeiro. After meeting a disillusioned Esther, he falls in love with Esther without knowing that she is his son's great love. He proposes her marriage after having convinced her that life is still worth living and the two get married and return to the Sobral estate, Ouro Verde. Ester and Inácio are reunited as stepmother and stepson!

After some animosity, the pair discover the responsible of their separation, Inácio's evil grandmother. They still fail to come clean to the baron is ill and needs the support of his family. Unhappy with the situation and knowing that Ouro Verde is facing financial difficulties, Inácio marries Alice, the spoiled daughter of Higino Ventura and his wife, the ditzy Barbara.

Meanwhile, Ventura fights to buy the Ouro Verde and humiliate Sobral. After grieving the loss of Helena, he becomes obsessed with Olívia, a mysterious young woman with a vague past, and with a urging need to leave the country... Scorned by the girl, who is enaged to the town's doctor, Mariano, he seeks informations about her past and discovers that she is a white (3 parts white, 1 part black) slave who lives on the run and since her owner has reported her disappearance.

But one fact shakes the entire village of Sant'Anna: Baron Henrique Sobral is murdered during the engagement party between Abelard and sweet Juliana, the same night that Inácio and Esther flee to live together after finding out he faked his illness and knew about them all along. Local police mobilize to arrest Inácio, the prime suspect for the murder. Then a race against time begins that Inácio will not pay for the crime committed, while those who believe in him try to unravel the identity of the real killer.

The telenovela displays the following tropes:

  • Affair? Blame the Bastard: Inverted between Henrique and Abelardo. The latter is the result of his mother's affair with Ventura, but Henrique blames the mother for that and raised the child lovingly.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Several characters are in love with people who don't return their affection
    • Henrique is in love with his second wife Esther, who loves his eldest son instead;
    • Alice is in love with Inácio, but he doesn't care for her while his younger brother is head-over-heels for her,
    • Traiano is in love with Juliana, but she's in love with Abelardo instead.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Esther and Inácio, along with the Beta Couple of Mariano and Olívia indulge in this a lot.
  • Arch-Enemy: Henrique Sobral has one in Hgino Ventura, the Self-Made Man who has envied him for decades, along with lusting after his wife.
  • Babies Ever After: The telenovela ends with Esther announcing to Inácio that she's expecting their first child.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Alice thinks this plot would keep her husband in their loveless marriage. Except that theirs is a Sexless Marriage with little chances to change. She resorts to get that baby from someone else.
  • Bad Boss: Higino Ventura treats his slaves as commodities rather than people and tortures or murders them without a second thought if it suits him. Idalina is also cruel to the house slaves (who are not even hers) when Henrique is not around to tell her off, and sells Zulmira's daughter out of spite.
  • Becoming the Mask: Olívia pretends to befriend Juliana because she wants to steal her documents to leave Brazil (she has the right age to become her new alias), but grows to love her as a friend and falls in love with her young and dashing uncle.
  • Benevolent Boss: The Sobrals (save for Idalina) are a family of benevolent boss, and life in Ouro Verde would be kind to their slaves if their overseer Clemente was not acting cruelly to them behind his master's back.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Guiomar, Esther's best friend, and Bartolomeu, the town's journalist.
  • Betty and Veronica: Inácio's brother Abelardo is in love with Alice (the Manipulative Bitch Veronica) but is engaged with his sweet, shy Unlucky Childhood Friend Juliana (the Betty).
  • Beta Couple: The pairing who gets the most focus are Olívia and Mariano, who are also Star-Crossed Lovers in their own way. Guimoar and Bartolomeu, Juliana and Abelardo function as Gamma and Delta couple.
  • Big Damn Hero: Cristóvão saves Olìvia and Mariano from Ventura's murderous rage and stabs him to death. He then flees the plantation with everyone looking the other side.
  • Big Fancy House: Ouro Verde is the largest and most beautiful and elegant plantation of the region.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Alice Ventura is a Manipulative Bitch under her charming, ladylike façade. Most of the cast can see through her bullshit, but more ingenuous characters like Abelardo or Juliana often fail to do so.
  • Born into Slavery: The background of almost all of the slave characters such as Zulmira, her children, Cristóvão, Rosália and even Olívia, who passes herself as white.
  • The Bride with a Past: Both Esther and Olívia have an haunting past: the former was a High-Class Call Girl, the latter a fugitive slave.
  • Cain and Abel: Olívia's half-sister ruined her life by destroying the document that proved her freedom in the backstory and selling her into sexual slavery in the current plot.
  • Clear Their Name: The last part involves the trial for Henrique's death, with Inácio and then Esther being accused of the murder. Their friends lead the investigation to find the real killer.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Helena Sobral cheated on her husband many years ago and he hasn't let her forget the infidelity for the rest of her life, bordering on Domestic Abuse. It earned him his oldest son's resentment, who ironically is quite a jealous guy himself.
  • Cutting the Knot: Guiomar is involved in a subplot where she has to resolve a problem this way, finding Leopoldo's first marriage contract, which proves he's bigamous. She can't find it because she hasn't enough time for the research so she sets the chapel on fire instead.
  • Dances and Balls: There are quite a few, the most famous case is the one given the night Baron Sobral is murdered.
  • The Ditz: Bárbara Ventura is dumb as a brick and very much Book Dumb. Except that Beneath the Mask she's a cunning Serial Killer, while still the ditziest woman on-screen.
  • Dogged Nice Guy:
    • Abelardo is one to Bitch in Sheep's Clothing Alice, who exploits his passion to play him like a fiddle,
    • Traiano helps Juliana getting closer to Abelardo, despite loving her himself,
    • Count Pedro his hopelessly in love with Esther to the point of pulling a False confession to clear her from the murder charges. Esther loves him as a friend but lets him down gently, and he eventually moves on.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Henrique was emotionally abusive and controlling of his first wife, because he couldn't forget the one time she cheated on him,
    • Idalina is a female example. She makes her husband's life a living hell with her malicious plotting and endless nagging. He can't escape the abuse because she has very compromising evidence of his past.
  • Drama Queen: Bárbara Ventura is played with supreme hamminess, while she's a pain to the hears of the wretched souls who would listen to her rants. Also she has No Indoor Voice.
  • Evil Matriarch: Idalina Menezes de Albuquerque Silveira, Inácio's grandmother, is actually an subversion. She has little control of her life (her fortune's gone and she lives off her son-in-law's charity even after his second marriage) and most of her schemes have the goal of gaining control of her family's members and the respect she thinks she's entitled to.
  • Fancy Dinner: Juliana is invited for dinner by Idalina, who wants to humiliate her because she thinks she's unsuited to marry into a noble family. The dinner has an haute cuisine dish after the other, with Idalina (and Esther, who tries to help Juliana out) assuming that Juliana wouldn't know how to eat the dishes or which cutlery use. Juliana surprises everyone revealing that she has received etiquette lessons from her great-aunt, shaming Idalina's attempt to embarrass her.
  • Good Stepmother:
    • Esther is one to Abelardo, although she's not much older than him she's more of a friend or a Cool Big Sis,
    • Jesus marries Zulmira and fills the role as a father to her children, and works hard to buy their freedom,
    • Henrique was one to Abelardo, he raised him lovingly although he knew the boy wasn't his son, earning his first wife's love and gratitude for that.
    • In the finale, Juliana marries Abelardo and accept to raise his son with Alice (thankfully out of the picture) a hers.
  • Guile Hero:
    • Olívia is the supreme one, and before moving to Sant'Anna She Is introduced as a con woman in Rio. She can outwit most of the resident bitches (Idalina, Alice) and often does (exposing Alice's doubleness to Juliana and Abelardo, exposing Idalina's many shenanigans, keeping Ventura at bay, and Henrique's fake illness to prevent Esther from leaving him. Her resourceful personality was pretty much a requirement for living on the run for a long time, where her scheming kept her from being captured or starving.
    • Esther can be one when she needs to. The plan who gets Olívia successfully freed from slavery is her idea. She gets Ventura to miss the slave auction by pretending to sell him Ouro Verde for enough time to let Mariano buy Olívia instead.
    • Guiomar is also one, coaching slave Luzia on how raise money to buy her freedom, helping her friends when they are blackmailed or harassed, with some Indy Ploy schemes.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Helena Sobral's adultery in the backstory is portrayed sympathetically because she was married to Henrique at her mother's insistence and was in love with someone else.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: There are some pretty mid-19th century gowns, with Esther often wearing the fanciest outfits. Her theatre gown in the first episode was inspired by the famous portrait of Empress Elizabeth of Austria.
  • Henpecked Husband: Leopoldo Silveira, Inácio's grandfather, is constantly humiliated and nagged by his wife Idalina. The reason why he never puts her in her place is that Leopoldo is bigamous: his first marriage failed after few years and then he met the beautiful and respectable Idalina, and married her anyway. She uses this knowledge to keep him constantly under her thumb.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Esther goes through one when she thinks Inácio has abandoned her, until Henrique helps her face life again.
    • Olívia has two big one when she's exposed as a runaway slave by Ventura and a second one when he finds out she's being playing him like a fiddle for years and she's been seeing Mariano for all this time. With some family-unfriendly results.
    • Abelardo has a huge one when he finds out he's Higino Ventura's bastard son. Along with Beard of Sorrow and Drowning My Sorrows.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • Doctor Xavier and Father Olinto are murdered before they can tell a huge secret, setting the murder mystery that is one of the main plots.
    • Henrique was not murdered by either Inácio nor by Esther. Bárbara murdered him because he uncovered the murders of the above people and many others, with his first wife among them.
  • Heroic Bastard:
    • Olìvia is the daughter of a gentleman and his slave maid, and is one of the most heroic characters in the story.
    • Abelardo is an illegitimate child as well, and he's definitely a good person, when not manipulated by Alice. He eventually grows out of it and contributes to save Esther.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Esther is one through and through. She lived an impoverished childhood and capitalized her beauty to raise above poverty, but she is a kind soul, and her generosity has earned her many friends and admirer who can see beyond her profession.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Several slave characters dream of freedom and work hard to obtain it.
    • Jesus is freed by Esther as an act of kindness, but he fall in love with Zulmira and works hard to obtain the money to free her and her children.
    • Cristóvão wants to run away to a quilombo note  and fight slavery along with other fugitives;
    • Luzia is the token evil black character, but she wants freedom as much as the next slave, and employs her wit and sexuality to obtain the money for her freedom.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Bartolomeu, Mariano's cousin and Guiomar's Love Interest is an abolitionist journalist with high moral standards that he takes seriously.
    • Former slave Jesus finds a job in Bartolomeu's journal after his emancipation. He becomes a well-known abolitionist writer.
  • Karma Houdini: Dora, Olívia's half-sister sells her as a slave to Ventura and disappears in mid-series without getting any comeuppance for her actions. Fortunately the rest of the villains gets a well-deserved Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Abelardo finds out he's Ventura's son rather abruptly (Inácio has to tell him to prevent him from marrying Alice). His biological father makes several We Can Rule Together offers, but Abelardo would have none of it.
  • Missing Mom: Almost every major character's mother has passed away in the backstory.
    • Inácio's and Abelardo's mother Helena is alive in the first episode but bites it soon enough. Also a case of Dead Star Walking.
    • Juliana's parents have passed away and she's raised by her grandfather and great-aunt. Also her grandfather is a widow so Mariano's mother isn't in the picture as well.
    • Esther is an orphan and was raised by a godmother.
    • Olívia:s mother died of childbirth and she was raised by her father.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse:
    • Inácio is suspected to having murdered his father because he was in love with his stepmother.
    • Inácio's mother Helena was instead poisoned on Bárbara Ventura's orders because her husband has always carried a torch for Helena during their marriage (and she's the main reason he's bought the plantation next door).
    • Alice along with Idalina have Esther framed for Henrique's murder so Inácio wouldn't leave her.
    • Higino Ventura tries to have Mariano murdered.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Abelardo finds out that he's Ventura's son, meaning that the woman he loves is his half-sister. Except that Alice was adopted. She keeps her adoption a secret because she can manipulate Abelardo better with his constant guilt.
  • Not Me This Time: Ventura is responsible for most of the misfortunes that befall on the Sobral's except for Henrique's murder and all the other murders related (Helena, Doctor Xavier). He's completely oblivious that his wife Bárbara murdered all these people along to an old business partner of his and one of his former mistresses.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Olívia plays The Ingenue card when she wants to manipulate someone.
    • Bárbara Ventura can be in fact pretty cunning when she need to. She has been poisoning people for years and she was never suspected.
  • Pass Fail: Quite a subversion with Olívia. She is able to pass as white due to her fair complexion and her white upbringing (her father raised her in his household), but her spiteful half-sister raises a successful campaign to found her. Save for that, she also gets to marry her white fiancé Mariano without her mixed race being ever brought up by her in-laws, and has many friends that are both white and black who support her.
  • Peer Stepparent: Esther is just a couple of years older than her stepsons. Slave girl Luzia jokes that she's young enough to be Inácio's wife instead of his stepmother, which is a funny Accidental Truth as she was supposed to marry Inácio. Towards her other stepson Abelardo she settles more on a Cool Big Sis role.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Clemente the overseer lists after house slave Zulmira and when she is widowed, he tries to extort sex from her in exchange for keeping her house instead of going back to the barracoon with her kids.
  • Second Love:
    • Zulmira is widowed in the first episode, but she finds love again when Jesus moves is the plantation as Esther's servant.
    • Henrique Sobral mourns his late wife Helena (also out of guilt for his bad treatment of her) until he meets Esther.
    • Abelardo gets over Alice once for all and develops feelings for the more deserving Juliana.
    • Traiano eventually gets over Juliana and starts courting a young lady who recently moved in town.
  • Sexless Marriage: Inácio and Alice's quickly evolves into this. Hilarity Ensues when Alice resorts to get pregnant to keep Inácio from leave her, but Inácio wouldn't fall for any of her schemes.
  • Serial Killer: ''Bárbara Ventura'', of all people. She's not only responsible for Henrique's death but also murdered his wife Helena, Father Olìnto, Doctor Xavier and other people in the backstory (one of her husband's mistresses, a former business partner, and others) because she deals with people getting in their way by poisoning their drink. Otherwise, she is a very jolly person.
  • Shrinking Violet: Juliana, Mariano's niece, is timid and insecure. Her arc is learning to be more assertive and fight for her love for Abelardo.
  • Slave Liberation:
    • Jesus earns her freedom early in the series, thanks to Esther;
    • Also Jesus manages to buy his stepdaughter's Martha's freedom,
    • Luzia manages to obtain the money to buy her freedom by accepting bribes or prostituting herself,
    • Olívia is bought and freed by Mariano, who with the help of their friends raised enough money to bribe Clemente (who owned her at the time) into selling her to him,
    • In the finale after a Time Skip Inácio and Abelardo free all their slaves, and most of them choose to keep working there but receiving a salary.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Most of the cast is related to one degree or another.
    • Juliana is the granddaughter of Doctor Xavier, while Mariano is the doctor's son and Bartolomeo is the nephew. The two Xavier young men are cousins, and Juliana is their orphaned niece despite not being much younger than her uncles; also Mariano is about to marry her friend Olívia, who would become her aunt by marriage;
    • Alice marries Inácio, making the archenemies fathers in-laws, but her brother-in-law Abelardo is also her father's bastard son, although she is adopted. This makes her son with Abelardo Ventura's grandson through and through because the baby is not related to Henrique and Inácio Sobral.
    • By the end of the drama the Sobral's and the Xaviers are also in-laws with the marriage of Juliana and Abelardo, making most of the white cast one big family.
  • Token Evil Teammate: All the slaves are good and heroic, save for Luzia, who is not interested in the fight for freedom, as long as she obtains it for herself. She's also a liar, a cheat and a murderer.
  • Uptown Girl:
    • In the backstory, Helena Sobral was in love with lowly peddler Higino Ventura. Her parents vetoed the relationship and she eventually moved on. Higino didn't bad it was the Start of Darkness for him;
    • Both Inácio and his father fall for an High-Class Call Girl of humble origins;
    • Abelardo gets engaged to Juliana, the doctor's granddaughter. His grandmother Idalina thinks she's is his social inferior (they don't even own slaves!). This shows how snobbish and out of touch she is, because literally everyone else (including Abelardo's father) approve the relationship.
  • Villainous Crush:
    • Higino Ventura has been in love with Helena Sobral, and after her death he switches his affection towards Olìvia, who wants none from him.
    • Alice Ventura is in love with Inácio and it never dawns on her that lying and scheming isn't the best way to make someone love you.
  • We Can Rule Together: After learning Abelardo Is his biological son, Higino offers him multiple times a place in his family and his inheritance, but Abelardo won't listen to this noise.
  • Whole-Plot Reference:
    • Olívia's subplot of the fugitive white slave borrows a page from Gilberto Brâga's first hit, Isaura the Slave Girl, although the two characters have starkly different personalities (Isaura is The Ingenue, Olívia is a Guile Hero), and while Isaura's Love Interest is a rich owner who can rescue her, Olívia's is a modest doctor who can't buy her freedom, so they have to rely on their friends help.
    • Esther and Inácio romance is inspired by La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias) of Alexandre Dumas, fils with the tragic plot of a young gentleman falling for an High-Class Call Girl.
  • Yandere: Alice is in love with Inácio and would resort of any foul play to keep him including get pregnant from another man when he wouldn't do the deed, and framing the woman he actually loves for murder;
    • Her mother Bárbara is even worse. She has being poisoning people for decades because they were either her romantic rivals or they were getting in the way of Higino's path for success.