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Spain’s global hit series ‘Money Heist’ reaches end

Netflix will on Friday release the final five episodes of "La Casa de Papel" (Money Heist), the most in-demand TV series in the world currently and one which blew open the door for other non-English language series on streaming services.

money heist season 5 finale
"Money Heist" has been the most in-demand series globally across all platforms this autumn, according to Parrot Analytics. Poster: Netflix

Created by Spain’s private Antena 3 network, the thriller about a gang of thieves and their elaborate heists became Netflix’s most-watched series not in English after it picked up the show in December 2017.

The fate of the robber characters, all of whom have code names from cities around the world, even hooked audiences in the United States, which was not then used to dubbed shows.

The New York Times praised the series and its twists and turns as a “joy ride in every sense” while Israel’s Haaretz newspaper called it “seriously riveting”.

The red overalls and Salvador Dali masks sported by the renegade gang members in the series soon became popular around the world at costume parties and street protests.

“This is the first non-English language series to become a global phenomenon,” said Elena Neira, a professor of communication sciences at the Open University of Catalonia.

Thanks in part to the success of the show, Netflix and its competitors “realised that they did not need to produce everything in the United States” to get a global audience, she added.

Netflix soon scored big with other series not in English, such as French thriller “Lupin” and South Korean dystopian drama series “Squid Game” which this year became the platform’s most-watched series ever.

‘Highly addictive’

While the “Money Heist” screenplay is “not revolutionary”, it tells “a very universal story, of the struggle between good and bad…with messages about the power of women, camaraderie and the need to rebel,” said Neira.

“Lupin” shares many of the show’s features, such as its focus on a thief with “a certain moral” aspect who is “very intelligent,” she added.

“Money Heist” was also lucky to have been picked up by Netflix shortly after the steaming service in January 2016 went live in more than 130 countries, bringing its coverage to almost the entire globe except China.

Netflix’s recommendation algorithm also favours series like “Money Heist” which end with a cliffhanger and are “highly addictive,” said Alberto Nahum Garcia, a professor of audiovisual communication at the University of Navarre.

“There was a kind of alignment of the planets at a time when distribution became even more global,” he added.

Neira said the show benefited as well from the US streaming giant’s willingness to invest heavily to dub and add subtitles to shows in dozens of languages.

The cast of “La Casa de Papel” during the presentation of the season and series finale at the Palacio Vistalegre arena in Madrid on November 30th, 2021. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
 

Launch pad for Spain

The global success of “Money Heist” has also given Spain’s audiovisual sector a huge boost.

“It placed Spain’s industry in a place where we never dreamed it could be,” the show’s creator Alex Pina said Tuesday at a Madrid news conference to promote the second part of the fifth and final season of the series.

Netflix in 2018 signed a deal with Pina to produce new series and projects exclusively for the streaming giant.

And the following year it opened its first European production centre in Madrid, part of a multi-million euro investment in Spanish language content.

“Money Heist” showed that “stories can be created anywhere in the world and be appreciated everywhere in the world,” Netflix’s vice president of content for Spain and Portugal, Diego Avalos, told AFP.

Several “Money Heist” stars have become regulars on other Netflix shows.

Jaime Lorente, who plays hot-tempered robber Denver, and Miguel Herran who plays young hacker Rio, appear in teen drama Elite, another Spanish global hit.

“Our aim is to be part of the Spanish creative ecosystem. We are investing for the long term,” he added at the opening of the company’s production centre in Madrid.

Five interesting facts to know about Spain’s smash hit Money Heist 

The following are five facts about the show about a gang of thieves who launch elaborate heists:

Sleeper hit

The debut season of the series scored so-so ratings when it was first broadcast on free-to-air Spanish TV station Antena 3.

The first episode aired on May 2, 2017 was seen by four million viewers, but the audience kept dropping and the final episode of the season captured just 1.4 million viewers.

It was only after Netflix bought it, re-edited it, dubbed it and began streaming it in December 2017 that the show took off in Spain and the rest of the world.

A demonstrator wearing the red jumpsuit and Dali mask of the Spanish Netflix hit series La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) during a demonstration in Marseille, France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP
A demonstrator wearing the red jumpsuit and Dali mask of the Spanish Netflix hit series La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) during a demonstration in Marseille, France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

 Resistance symbol

The story centres on a group of criminals who break into Spain’s Royal Mint to print their own money, an allegory of revolt against the excesses of capitalism that struck a chord with many viewers a decade after the global financial crisis.

French daily Le Monde called the series “an allegory of rebellion” and the red overalls and Salvador Dali masks worn by the fictional thieves in the series have been donned in protests around the globe.

 Crime inspiration

In December 2020 a group of gunmen carried out a brazen robbery in Criciuma in southern Brazil which appears to have been inspired by the series.

The heavily armed gang burst into a bank, detonated explosives to blast open its safe and then threw bills flying into the air before fleeing.

Bystanders who raced to collect the money hampered the efforts of police to catch the robbers.

City names

In the series all the members of the gang are given code names taken from cities around the world: Tokyo, Rio, Berlin, Moscow, Nairobi, Oslo, Helsinki, Denver, etc.

The show’s creator Alex Pina has said the inspiration came from a staff member of the series who wore a t-shirt with the word Tokyo.

Building swap

Fans of the show who visit Madrid can often be seen taking pictures of themselves in front of the Royal mint where much of the series takes place.

But for security reasons the exterior images of the building were actually shot in front of another institution with similar architecture — the Spanish National Research Council.

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DISCOVER SPAIN

Following the Dalí trail around Spain’s Costa Brava

Catalonia-based travel writer Esme Fox embarks on a voyage into the mind of Salvador Dalí, visiting various locations and landmarks that the Spanish surrealist created or made his own around Spain's Costa Brava.

Following the Dalí trail around Spain's Costa Brava

Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí is perhaps one of Spain’s most famous and loved 20th-century artists. He is known for his quirky images of melting clocks, elephants with long spindly legs and the portraits of his wife, Gala.

Dalí was born in the town of Figueres in 1904, which is located in northern Catalonia, approximately 50km north of the city of Girona. This is the best place to begin your Dalí tour of the region.

Figueres Day 1  

Arriving in Figueres your first stop should be the Salvador Dalí Theatre-Museum, this is where some of the artist’s most important works are held. The museum was in fact created by Dalí himself when he was still alive and was inaugurated in 1974. It’s housed in an old theatre, hence the name. Everything in it was designed by Dalí to offer visitors a real experience and draw them into his world.

It’s eye-catching even from the outside – pink in colour and studded with yellow plaster croissants, and on the walls sit golden statues and his iconic large white eggs – a symbol which you’ll see repeated on your journey.

Salvador Dalí Theatre Museum in Figueres. Photo: Julia Casado / Pixabay

The museum is filled with 1,500 pieces including his sketches, paintings and sculptures. It also houses the remains of Dalí himself, down in the crypt, where you can pay your respects to the artist.

Next door to the museum is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the exquisite jewellery Dalí designed, which shouldn’t be missed. 

Afterward, you can go and see the house where Dalí was born at number 6 on Carrer Monturiol. It’s not currently an attraction, however there are renovation works underway to turn it into a new museum about the artist’s childhood. It was due to open in 2020, but there were significant delays because of the pandemic and it is still nowhere near finished.

Spend the night at the Hotel Duran, where Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala in fact lived while they were renovating the theatre. The hotel restaurant even has a special Dalí room, filled with images of Dalí and all his friends, as well as objects belonging to the artist.

Cadaqués Days 2 and 3

After a winding and hairpin turn journey west, you’ll find yourself at one of the eastern-most points in Spain – the town of Cadaqués. One of the most attractive towns on the Costa Brava, its white-washed buildings gleam against the cerulean blue bay and pink bougainvillea decorates its tiny interior cobbled streets.

In summer in particular, this place gets very busy, so make sure you’ve booked well in advance for your accommodation.

Dalí loved this area in summer too and built his summer house in the tiny neighbouring village of Portlligat. The house is now a museum, but as it’s quite small, booking tickets several weeks or even months ahead of time is essential.

Dalí’s house in Portlligat. Photo: Esme Fox

Dalí designed the house himself, which was created from several fisherman’s cottages joined together and is topped with his iconic white eggs.

Inside, you’ll see the artist’s studio, where many of his most famous works were created, including two unfinished pieces which still sit on the easels. You can also see Dalí and Gala’s bedroom where they kept canaries to wake them up in the morning and crickets to send them off to sleep at night. There’s also an angled mirror ready to catch the sun, ensuring that Dalí was one of the first people in the whole of Spain to see the sunrise each morning.

The highlight of the visit however is the vast garden, which even features a replica of the lion fountain in Granada’s Alhambra palace as well as his famous sofa in the shape of a pair of pink lips. The views from the top part of his garden above the olive grove are so stunning that it’s no wonder Dalí was inspired by the landscapes here.

There’s a replica of Alhambra’s lion fountain in Dalí’s garden. Photo: Esme Fox

On your second day in Cadaqués, head north to Paratge de Tudela located in the Cap de Creus Natural Park. You’ll need a car or taxi to get here. Here, you can hike among the very same landscape that Dalí painted in some of his most celebrated works. Look carefully or take a tour to see the same rock formations featured in his paintings.

For dinner, book a table at El Barroco, a traditional Lebanese restaurant and one of Dalí’s favourites when he lived there. He ate there at least twice a week in summer and it’s said that whenever he had famous guests he would meet them there instead of inviting them into his home. Dalí’s face adorns the door and inside it’s just as surreal with colourful plants, quirky statues and mirrors hanging in the courtyard. And inside it’s like a museum itself, filled with glass cases of bizarre objects and old musical instruments. There are even some photos of Dalí and Gala.

Book a table at El Barroco in Cadaqués. Photo: Esme Fox

Day 4

Make your way 60km south of Cadaques to the tiny charming villages of inland Costa Brava and specifically the village of Púbol. It’s here that Dalí bought an old castle in 1969 and renovated it from 1982 to 1984 for his wife Gala to live in.

Although the castle dates back to the 12th century, Dalí modernised it and added his creative and whimsical touches. It was a kind of love letter to his wife.

Dalí said of the castle: “Everything celebrates the cult of Gala, even the round room, with its perfect echo that crowns the building as a whole and which is like a dome of this Galactic cathedral… I needed to offer Gala a case more solemnly worthy of our love. That is why I gave her a mansion built on the remains of a 12th-century castle: the old castle of Púbol in La Bisbal, where she would reign like an absolute sovereign, right up to the point that I could visit her only by hand-written invitation from her. I limited myself to the pleasure of decorating her ceilings so that when she raised her eyes, she would always find me in her sky”.

Visit Gala’s castle in Púbol. Photo: Enric / WikiCommons

When Gala died in 1982, the castle became her mausoleum and she is still buried there today.

The castle is now a museum where you can tour each of the grand rooms, serene gardens, as well as spot Dalí’s whacky touches. Gala for example asked Dalí to cover up the radiators because she didn’t like to look at them, so as a joke, Dalí covered them with paintings of yet more radiators. 

Day four completes your Dalí trail around the Costa Brava. Go ahead and immerse yourself in the whimsical world of Dalí. 

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