I seldom watch foreign movies or TV series but the Spanish Netflix series “About La Casa de Papel” called “Money Heist” in English has caught my attention.
To be clear talking about “foreign” movies for me is a bit of an oxymoron for me since being Norwegian, American movies are indeed foreign. Like most westerners I watch more American movies than whatever is native to my own country and culture.
It is a product of the well funded Hollywood machine producing big budget movies and series nobody else can generally match. But the world is changing. I have started watching more Scandinavian shows lately. Quality has improved a lot due to equipment to produce quality content is cheaper, people have learned more. E.g. when I was young there was no place in in my native Norway to learn movie making. Now there has been for many years and that shows.
Streaming services such as Netflix has broadened market for Scandinavian shows. So with more demand and more money quality has moved up. But this is not unique to us. All other foreign movies and series seem to broaden their international appeal as well. This is refreshing. Because as much as we all love Hollywood movies, let us get real. The American movie formula is getting kind stale.
After many years one gets a bit tired of how predictable the plots of American movies are, and the formulaic way of dealing with villains and heroes. When I watch some Scandinavian shows I am often asking myself, why don’t I do this more often?
I started getting curious what else is of there besides Scandinavian series? It can be a hit and a miss. I watched the German Dark for a number of episodes but it made me ambivalent about what other foreign series could offer. It had some interesting plot, but I could not really relate to the characters. I hope I don’t offend the Germans here but German movies and series is sort of like Scandinavian series but without any spark. That sound a bit meaner than I want it to be. Basically Scandinavian and German culture has a lot in common so you feel a certain familiarity watching it. The problem is that Germans are a bit like Scandinavians without the humor. The plot of the series can be quite good. But I miss some lightness.
E.g. the Norwegian Netflix Series Norsemen is not something I think you’ll ever see coming out of Germany. It is crazy pitch black humor.
One day I could not figure out what to watch and so I went for the Korean Parasite movie. Interestingly both the title and the cover image did not appeal to me at all. Nor the description of the movie. But then again it seemed to have gotten good reviews and I was really tired of Hollywood stuff that day so I gave it a try.
I really loved it. I am not entirely sure if it was Oscar material to me. Hyping up a movie can ruin it, so if you decide to watch it, don’t think you will see the best movie ever.
Yet it was a really refreshing experience to me. It took me to a totally different movie universe I seldom visit. Even if South Korean movies follow a formula as much as American ones, because I have not seen many Korean movies I don’t know this formula and so the stories feel fresher.
This is partly what gave me the impetus to check out the Spanish Money Heist. I got hooked, and finally found something I can enjoy again on Netflix.
But let me be clear, this is not a series without flaws. It certainly has issues, but I can deal with it because it is not the same issues I have seen a million times with American TV series.
Okay how do you describe this series? While the analogy is not perfect, the quick and dirty analogy is Ocean’s 11. We deal with a an intricate plan to rob a bank with lots of twists and turns. If you want to watch this, don’t read too much about the plot. Because exactly what they are robbing, why and how is kind of the fun thing to discover. I will try to avoid giving any spoilers about stuff that you will enjoy discovering while watching.
How does Money Heist Compare to Oceans 11?
Let us talk about some of the good things before we get into the bad. As many European shows, I think Money Heist does a better job than American series in exploring the psychology of people.
That is what made Nordic Noire a big hit I believe. It wasn’t merely about who did it and finding the killer but about the psychology of the police, killers, victims etc.
Money Heist likewise gets under the skin of the robbers, the hostages and the police. That helps make the whole thing feel more real. You can relate somewhat to the characters.
Like Oceans it has fun twists and turns. You always wonder how they are going to pull off some new challenge. They always have some trick up their sleeve which is exposed in one piece at a time.
The show makes us cheer on both the robbers and the police, which makes you sit uneasy in your chair. You kind of want to robbers to succeed, but you also want the police to succeed. A hard balance.
Like Parasite “Money Heist” also expose you to some of the unique aspects of Spanish culture and society, which is interesting when you have watched a million American cop shows with the same dynamics over and over again.
That is both a strength and weakness. Every culture has their issues. As I pointed out Germans are a bit too serious and don’t do humor. For the Spanish it is a bit opposite. One senses when watching this that Spanish people love soap operas. Relationships, love and passions can sometimes run a bit too high for this cold blooded Nordic. As my Portuguese friend said years ago: “You Northern Europeans have no fire in your blood!”
As Money Heist develops the number of relationship intrigues and loves stores can in my humble Nordic opinion get a bit out of hand. This is what I liked about Oceans. It stayed more focused on the Heist itself. I think Money Heist would have been a lot better if it focused more on this.
But if you can see past this I think Money Heist is a series one can enjoy. It is a fun twist to the Heist genre. Although I haven’t actually explained to you what the twist is. You should watch yourself and find out.
I would love to get comments from some Spanish viewers, if all the talk of love, sex, passion, relationships etc is unique to this show or if it is kind of a Spanish thing?