As the very first K-drama focused on AR games, ‘Memories of The Alhambra’ boasts with a budget of $25 million. Everything in this 16 episode drama is perfectly done along with the action scenes, cinematography, and cast members. Generally, the show felt like there is no one under-performed as all the casts did an excellent job playing their respective characters no matter how small their roles are. It was great to watch Hyun Bin portraying the main character.
The character of the game developer was played by the famous K-pop boy band ‘EXO’ member, Park Chanyeol. And then we have Park Shin Hye in the role of Jung HeeJoo, who runs a hostel and where Jin Woo stays in Granada. Her brother is the inventor of the AR game, but she has no idea about it. For portraying HeeJoo’s character, Park Shin Hye learned to play the classical guitar and speak Spanish.
The series is not just especially interesting due to its story and genre, but also since unlike other South Korean series, a significant part of this was shot in Europe. A large part of the filming happened in Spain, to be precise in Barcelona, Granada, and Girona. Next to the scenes that they could not shoot in Spain for various reasons were therefore shot in Slovenia and also some scenes were filmed in Hungary. The locations in these two countries acted as alternatives to the Spanish locations in the storyboard. They also presented the actual Alhambra Palace of Granada so gorgeously that you would want to pack your bags immediately and buy plane tickets to Spain right after you watch the first episode. It's the perfect setting too for the story they're trying to tell.
The writer of the drama ‘Memories of the Alhambra’ is Song Jae Jung is famous for her fantasy-based dramas like ‘W: Two Worlds Apart’, ‘Nine’ and ‘Queen In Hyun’s Man’. At first she wanted to give this drama a time travel theme but the idea was not motivated enough for her to carry on with. When searching for ideas, surprisingly she was inspired by ‘Pokémon Go'. In the 2019 interview with The Korea Times Song Jae Jung stated that, “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 Pokémon Go, it seemed doable.”
She also said that she was afraid of taking on the challenge of the AR gaming genre as there was no prior drama to take reference from. But when she saw the first episode she was really impressed by Korean digital special effects technicians’ skills. Even for her, it was really beyond expectations how realistically those technicians embodied the AR world in the drama. Basically, ‘Memories of the Alhambra’ introduced the AR genre to viewers, applying only basic gaming concepts like doing missions, level-ups, and alliances.
‘Memories of the Alhambra’ is one of those underrated shows where you begin watching it wondering if you would be wasting your time but end it with 'Why isn’t this hyped yet? The story is gripping and greatly paced. They did not stretch the story at all which is one of the main reasons why you will never lose concentration when watching the drama. It definitely has some unique qualities with its AR story, being set on Spanish streets, swashbuckling action, and its ample use of special effects that set it apart from other dramas. This show is genuinely exciting, thrilling, and even at times quite scary, with some good fighting scenes and special effects.
In short, ‘Memories of the Alhambra’ is simply outstanding. You’ll laugh, wonder, sigh, swoon, gasp, worry, and roll your eyes all throughout the episodes. It’ll have you guessing what’s to come next as you struggle to wrap your head around what happens.
* Rumaiysa M Rahman is a 10th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka