Week 7 – The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada

This film was pretty heavy for me to watch although I enjoyed the story very much. As I was watching it in class it reminded me of two of my favourite films Amores Perros and Babel. Both these films along with Three Burials connect all the characters stories although they all come very different worlds. I later came to find out that the writer of all these three films is Guillermo Arriaga and it’s no wonder I enjoyed this film. Arriaga also uses the flashback technique a lot with his stories, which can cause confusion when watching at first but as the story progresses it is as if you are adding pieces to a puzzle all together. As a viewer it really makes you take a step back and think that we really don’t know someone’s story and that in some way we all share many similarities despite our differences, be it, our cultural background or spiritual beliefs.

The film introduces Mike Norton and his wife Lou Ann who have moved to Texas because Mike has a job as a border patrol officer. Norton’s character comes off as very self-absorbed, he doesn’t seem to have very much emotion or care towards what seems like anyone, including his wife and I think even for himself. We see that his relationship with his wife is very distant during the sex scene in the kitchen. It’s very unromantic, with no stimulation what so ever for Lou Ann, it seems as if it has become a normality for her because she just stands there watching her soap opera waiting for him to finish. This soap opera which Arriaga brings back towards the end of the film.

When Pete and Norton are near the end of their journey they meet a group of Mexican men watching the same soap opera. Up to this point, Norton has been through a lot. Pete ridiculed his character in many different ways (having him unbury Melquiades, ordering him to sit in his chair and drink from his cup in his home). Norton had been bitten by a snake, was cured and punished by Marianna (the same woman who he had violently punched at the beginning of the film) and much more. The scene where Norton is watching this soap opera clip, however, I think is a turning point for his character. In my opinion, it serves as an awakening for Norton and for the audience it makes us sympathize with him a bit because we finally see some emotion out of him. I think this is where Norton realizes his wrongs, not only his wrongs in his treatment towards Mexican immigrants and his wrong in killing Melquiades but, also, his wrongs in his relationship with Lou Ann. I think he begins to remember her and realizes that he doesn’t have much or in this case doesn’t have anyone left by his side. Earlier in the film when Lou Ann leaves Texas to go back to Cincinnati we hear her tell Rachel that she has nothing left in Texas. When Rachel questions her about her husband she says that he is “beyond redemption”. As Norton watches the soap opera he laughs and says “I’ve seen this one” then later breaks into tears which starts his self realization for redemption that is finally seen at the end of the film when Pete tells him to ask for forgiveness.

3 Replies to “Week 7 – The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada”

  1. You did a great job of explaining Norton’s relationships with his wife and with Pete. Its really important that you noted how Lou Ann says that Norton is beyond redemption. I completely forgot about this but it is really important for the film and for my own understanding of the theme of redemption.
    I also like how you started by explaining how we do not always know each other’s personal story. We, as viewers, do not know the entire stories of the characters and yet we fall into the same traps of making assumptions about the characters. Good point that the film tries to show that we are all not as different as we think we are.

  2. I also found his relationship towards his wife interesting. When Lou Ann reveals that they were high school sweet hearts, I felt that it helped get across the idea that he was so accustomed to her that he no longer felt he needed to attend to her feelings. In some ways she was just his property rather than a separate person. Even though he didn’t know that she had left Texas when he watched the Soap Opera again and began to break down, I agree that he related it to her and the lines in the soap opera reinforced his lack of consideration for her.

  3. Yes, I also found the soap opera scene interesting. And it makes me think about our discussion (based on Fun in Acapulco) about what we can learn from watching bad movies. Because surely a soap opera is the televisual equivalent of a bad movie–in this case, because badly acted and melodramatic etc. Yet, as you point out, this slice of rather crappy popular culture both is a common point between North and South, Mexico and the US, and seems somehow to mark or evoke a change in the previously affectless Mike, a step towards his ultimate redemption.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet