One of the highest rated Korean series in cable television history, Memories of the Alhambra (2018) is also Korea’s first augmented reality-gaming drama.
Set in Spain and South Korea, the story follows a CEO and a hostel owner who get entangled in a series of mysterious incidents surrounding an augmented reality (AR) game.
The CEO, Yoo Jin-woo (Hyun Bin) travels to Granada, Spain to meet the creator of a groundbreaking AR game about medieval battles, Jung Se-joo (Park Chan-yeol).
However, he discovered Se-joo is missing and meets his sister Jung Hee-joo (Park Shin-hye), owner of an almost run down Hostel Bonita instead.
Things get complicated around Jin-woo as he finds the border between the game and his reality starts to blur.
In the meantime, romance begins to blossom between Jin-woo and Hee-joo.
With its unique storyline, impressive computer graphics and beautiful cinematography, it is no surprise how Memories of the Alhambra can keep the audience captivated up to its last episode.
Here are at least 10 things you might not know about South Korean drama Memories of the Alhambra (2018):
1.Memories of the Alhambra was inspired by Pokemon Go
In an interview, the writer Song Jae-jung revealed the story started about a man from the future, Yoo Jin-woo. She was playing with the idea of Yoo Jin-woo staying in a hotel room and opening the door to a stranger who would shoot him with a gun.
However, there was one problem. The idea was not motivated enough for her to carry on with the idea.
When she was searching for ideas to write about, Pokemon Go was the in thing at that time.
Song stated in the 2019 interview, “I didn’t think of doing a video game theme because it didn’t seem possible to create a virtual reality like the movie Avatar. But if it were to involve augmented reality with items on the screen like Pokemon Go, it seemed doable. That was when I dropped the time travel idea and decided to only keep the character Yoo Jin-woo.”
In another interview with The Korea Times, Song revealed that she was really impressed by Korean digital special effects technicians’ skills.
She further stated, “I was afraid of taking on the challenge of AR gaming genre. Since there was no prior drama to take reference, people I’ve talked with painted different pictures in their heads. But when I first saw the first episode, it was really beyond my expectations how realistically those technicians embodied the AR world in the drama. Memories of the Alhambra introduced the AR genre to viewers, applying only basic gaming concepts like doing missions, level-ups and alliances. I think maybe I can tell another gaming story in my next project applying more advanced gaming rules.”
2.Another source of inspiration is Elon Musk
In the same interview, Song revealed that the male lead Yoo Jin-woo is inspired by CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk.
She admitted that she seldom read books like novels, preferring books and magazines focused on the humanities.
When Song was reading Musk’s autobiography, she was inspired to write a character similar to him.
3.Hyun Bin’s character is also inspired by Odysseus from Greek Mythology
As you watch Memories of the Alhambra, you cannot help but notice the episodes of hardship after hardship that Jin-woo experiences throughout the drama.
This is because Song drew a similarity between Jin-woo and Odysseus from Greek mythology.
“Although Odysseus was a great king, he suffered serious repercussions from war and also experienced inexplicable situations. Jin-woo also faces troubles and strange incidents. What mattered to me was how Jin-woo becomes a hero in the end, after bearing all the consequences of his previous decisions.”
4.The relationship initially draws inspiration from Mathilda and Leon
What makes Jin-woo different from typical Korean drama male leads is that he has gone through not one but two divorces.
At first, Song imagined a Mathilda and Leon in Leon: The Professional (1994) kind of relationship. It is one that stands somewhere between love and friendship with the woman being the saviour of Jin-woo.
The 1994 film is an English-language French action-thriller film that follows a professional hitman named Leon. He reluctantly takes in 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman’s first film) after her family is brutally murdered.
After the cast was finally decided, Song decided that the relationship would be on the romantic side.
5.The scriptwriter is known for her fantasy dramas circling about different dimensions and time travels.
The reason why the initial idea behind Memories of the Alhambra was a time-travel story is because Song is known for this kind of story line.
Her drama Nine: 9 Times Time Travel (2013) is about an anchorman who obtains nine incense items which allow him to travel 20 years back in time.
Another drama Queen In-Hyun (2012) by Song is about a noble man from the Joseon Dynasty who winds up in present-day Seoul.
Memories of the Alhambra is not Song’s first drama in which she plays around with the idea of a different dimension.
W: Two Worlds Apart (2016) is about the romance between a webtoon character and a real-life surgeon.
6.Some of the scenes were actually not shot in Granada, Spain
While the drama supposedly set in both Spain and South Korea, there are plenty of scenes which were not shot in either of these two countries.
When Hee-jo and Jin-woo meet up in a restaurant to discuss Jin-woo buying the hostel, the eatery is actually a steak restaurant located in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
And when Jin-woo accidentally ends up in a small town train station which is supposed to be in Spain? The rustic train station is actually Kisterenye Railway Station in Hungary that dates back at least to the 1870s.
Again, the Granada train station in the drama is not even in Spain but in Hungary. Opened in 1858. the Mezotur Railway Station is about 2.5 hours away from Budapest by car.
7.The story behind Recuerdos de la Alhambra
The title of the drama actually alludes to Spanish guitarist Francisco Tarrega’s classical guitar piece Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
The piece also serve as the drama’s original soundtrack.
Tarrega wrote and dedicated it to his patron Concepcion Gomez de Jacoby, commemorating their visit to the Alhambra palace.
The melody supposedly represents the water of the fountains inside of the Alhambra.
8.Park Shin-hye learns how to speak Spanish for her role in the Memories of the Alhambra
If you have been following the works of Korean actress Park Shin-hye, she is known to take up the role of a poor girl who cries a lot.
In this drama she still plays a poor girl who cries a lot but knows how to speak Spanish and play the classical guitar.
She reportedly took up Spanish and classical guitar lessons for her role in the drama.
When filming in Spain, Shin-hye put some effort to create an authentic pronunciation by learning from the native speakers there.
9.And yes, Alhambra is a real palace and fortress
Alhambra was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications.
Then, the fortress was neglected until the mid-13th century by the Arab Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada.
The name Alhambra has its origin in an Arabic word meaning ‘red castle’. This is perhaps due to the colour of the towers and walls.
Today, Alhambra is known to be the only surviving palatine city (a royal territorial center) of the Islamic Golden age.
Additionally, the palace became a remnant of the Nasrid dynasty, the last Islamic kingdom in Western Europe.
10.Will there be a second season of Memories of the Alhambra?
While the fans are rooting for the second season of this Korean series, there is no confirmation yet.