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[Guest Drama Review] "Memories of the Alhambra": Footprints of the Gods



Memories of the Alhambra (MOTA), Korean drama's first foray utilizing Augmented Reality (AR) delivers an ambitious project for a television drama and functions as a refreshingly philosophical, religious and spiritual treasure. MOTA serves as a treatise on human behavior seen through the lens of an AR game. It advances the idea that man must know himself and transcend his lower nature in order to benefit the greater good.

Written by Song Jae-jeong, MOTA tells the story of a high technology investor, Yoo Jin-woo (Hyun Bin), who seeks to purchase a video game that uses AR, and encounters intrigue and misfortune surrounding the purchase and operation of the game. Forced to interact with the game-maker's sister, Jeong Hee-joo (Park Shin-hye), Jin-woo faces daunting challenges to make the purchase a success for his company. Ahn Gil-ho is the director.

This hauntingly beautiful drama pairs a video game with AR triggering several philosophical questions. MOTA stealthily delves into branches of philosophy (i.e. - metaphysics, epistemology, axiology and logic). It tackles religious ideology, referencing Christianity and Islam, and employs religious symbolism and iconography. Though the religious symbolism seems very surface initially, a detailed review reveals the brilliance of pairing state of the art technological concepts with ancient principles and wisdom. This knowledge carried into Spain by the Moors who gleaned that which was preserved by Greek philosophers from the Ancient Egyptian Mystery System makes Spain an ideal initial setting for the drama.


Just as Song meshes several genres, (i.e. - fantasy, science fiction, action, thriller, mystery, romance, and comedy), themes and religions, she interlocks the philosophical ideas, such that you cannot consider one without the other, and weaves the spiritual ideas seamlessly into the story.

The AR game's world and the real world of the drama begs questions about the rules of the AR game and its impact on the real world. When questioning rules, we step into the territory of metaphysics. MOTA wastes no time in immersing the audience in a guessing game. Just as IT Manager Choi Yang-joo (Cho Hyun-chul), Master Jeong Se-joo (Chanyeol) and Jin-woo, begin to ask how certain things are possible, the audience too questions possibilities when Se-joo and Jin-woo interact with the game. Jin-woo presents the audience a third world to be concerned with, that of the "crazy", which has its on rules.

Once acquainted with some of the rules, the drama introduces the audience to "characters and items" aka things of the AR game. The issue of "things" lands us in the sphere of ontology. An essential character in the game, Emma, represents a metaphysical and ontological enigma, because games have rules and the real world has principles, and she is an NPC, not a human User. We are told that Emma represents peace. She first appears at the Alcazaba Café, where it rains and thunders all the time, and she plays the song Memories of the Alhambra on her guitar. Due to a real world physical altercation that takes place in her presence, which is against the rules, Emma, a thing, transforms reality in both the game and real world. Though she represents peace, when the rules of the game are broken, she goes into anti-virus mode. What type of entity is Emma? How is Emma, an NPC in a game, able to affect the real world?

When Emma places an overlay onto the real world it seems she is bound by real world principles and her actions activate the Principle of Polarity. At this point, we seem to have two events happening at once. Emma's actions based on her ethics guides us into the area of axiology. The question of ethics arises and Emma is under polarity's sway. Considering Emma symbolizes peace in the game world, does she represent conflict in the real world, because her actions enable Se-joo's AR gun to inflict real wounds and pain on Marco (Lee Jae-wook)?

In addition, she stabs Jin-woo in order to debug the game and reset it. Is Emma justified in causing the death of Users, because Se-joo is stabbed? Is Emma justified in stabbing Jin-woo to debug and reset the game? Are Emma's ethics comparable with the offenses that are committed in the real world? What causes the tension in Emma's duality? Can Emma's character be depolarized?

The audience can reflect on other axiological questions as it relates to Emma's actions. Is it fair that Zinu (Jin-woo's User name in the game) is considered a bug? Did Jin-woo not suffer enough considering his parents die when he is a youth, his wife and best friend betray him, his second wife only wants him for his money, his father figure turns against him and he loses his position in the company that he founds?

MOTA quickly shifts the audience's attention from concerns regarding rules to questions of the physical universe and logic. When Choi asks Jin-woo how the game makes him feel and Jin-woo responds that he thought he was going to die we broach concepts of the physical universe. When Jin-woo asks Choi if it were possible that a deceased User can be programmed to be the image of an NPC, they are dealing with metaphysics, but the question and Choi's response drifts into the area of logic. Logic requires the organization of reasoning, either using the rules or principles to determine a specific conclusion, or vice versa.

Users, Marco, Hyeong-seok (Park Hoon) and Secretary Seo (Min Jin-woong), resurrect as NPCs after being defeated and killed in the game. So, what happened to cause these Users to die in the real world and resurrect as NPC's in the game with the ability to reappear at will? Were these NPCs real are just the figment of Se-joo, Jin-woo, and briefly Secretary Seo and Professor Cha's (Kim Eui-sung) imagination? Or are they experiencing mental health issues? Are the JOne contact lenses causing some type of neurological damage that affects the brain? Why are Jin-woo, Seo and Cha able to log onto the game without the contact lenses? Is the pain experienced from being cut with a sword or shot with a gun real? In confronting these questions about the physical universe of the game and real world, we are forced to once again inquire about the character's ethics. Are their morals so wrong that their souls do not deserve to go to heaven, but doomed to reside in game hell for eternity? Is Jin-woo so morally bankrupt that he is consigned to eternal game hell, as well?

Illustration of the philosophical issues, including ethics, hearkens back to the Ancient Egyptian Mystery System. In the Ancient Egyptian Mystery system as it relates to ethics, there are 10 virtues. Out of the ten, Jin-woo lacks and needs to work on at least five of the virtues that have caused him to fall off his square (discussed in detail later) and succumb to his lower nature: 1. in several instances, Jin-woo does not control his thoughts. He assumes several negative things about Hee-joo based on the condition of the hostel. Another example is when he hears anything that Hyeong-seok (his former friend, now enemy) wants, he desires to win from Hyeong-seok; 2. Jin-woo refuses to control his actions. He yells at and is rude to Hee-joo based on his erroneous thoughts. On several occasions he logs into the game based on anger; 3. Jin-woo does not have faith in himself to wield the truth. Jin-woo does not tell Hee-joo the truth about what is happening to him in the game, nor is he honest about seeing her running to the train as it leaves Granada; 4. Jin-woo is not free from resentment under experience of wrong. He resents Hyeong-seok for betraying him with his wife; 5. Jin-woo does not cultivate the ability to distinguish between the real and the unreal. This was discussed earlier as it relates to philosophy.


MOTA echoes Matrix in that both are action filled science fiction thrillers, and because the fable's main characters possess similar purposes. Characters in MOTA share some of the same features as characters in the Matrix. Jin-woo is MOTA's Thomas Anderson/NEO. Albeit fearful and youthful, Se-joo the maker of the AR game represents the Architect. The teenage Jeong Min-joo (Lee Re) in the real world takes the place of the elderly Oracle. Hee-joo represents the sacred feminine energy similar to Trinity, and instead of a self-composed, regal Morpheus, the quirky Choi serves as Jin-woo's mentor. The Hostel Bonita even has a spiraling staircase just like in the scene of the Matrix where Morpheus is caught by agents.

Jin-woo is "The One", it's spelled out in plain sight with his company name, JOne, just as Neo is the One when you change the letters around in his name. When we are first introduced to Jin-woo, he is awakened from sleep by a telephone call. In the Matrix, Thomas Anderson/Neo is shown as being asleep at the beginning of the movie. Sleep symbolizes a state of unawareness or unconsciousness. In Jin-woo's case, he is awakened by the "creator" of the game.

Jin-woo inserting the JOne contact lens into his right eye brings to mind Neo peering from his apartment, #101, using his right eye. When Jin-woo inserts the JOne contact lens in his eye, he normally inserts it into his right eye. In Ancient Egypt, the symbol of the right eye is "The Eye of Ra" a powerful destructive force of the sun. Choi asks Jin-woo when he removes the lens "is it hot?" On the other hand the left eye is depicted as the "Eye of Horus", "the all-seeing eye", of protection. The all-seeing eye sees into the spirit world. Obviously the JOne lens represents the all-seeing eye and sees into the AR game world.

Like Trinity in the Matrix, Hee-joo represents the compassion and love that is given by the sacred feminine energy that Jin-woo seeks and needs in order to transcend his lower nature. On several occasions throughout the drama Hee-joo and Jin-woo stand opposite of and stare at each other. This action showcases the Principle of Polarity that everything has duality, and the Principle of Gender that everything has its masculine and feminine principle. Just as Trinity resurrects Neo with true love's kiss, Hee-joo's true love for Jin-woo restores his right actions. Hee-joo is passive and emotional, unlike Trinity, but both women stay in distress in the respective drama and movie. Also, like Trinity who is observed in room 303, Hee-joo associates with the number 3 or 33. The last numbers on her parent's gravesite are 33; she is the third love interest of Jin-woo. She asked Jin-woo for three minutes so that she would not lose the entire 10 Billion won that he offered. In addition to 33 having significance for the Christ figure, it also is important in Masonry. The number 33 represents the number of vertebra composing the spine. The spine is the vehicle for which the life-force, Ra in Ancient Egypt and Kundalini in India travel through the energy centers to reach the pineal gland in the brain causing spiritual awakening. Hee-joo represents the channel for which Jin-woo raises his consciousness to higher nature.

Just as the Oracle tells Trinity that she will fall in love with the One, Min-joo constantly serves as matchmaker for Jin-woo and Hee-joo. She tells Jin-woo that she is intuitive when she concludes that Hee-joo likes him after he is hospitalized due to the injury at the hostel. On their first date, Hee-joo tells Jin-woo that Min-joo is intuitive. When Jin-woo was sedated after his injury, Min-joo tells Jin-woo that he only wanted Hee-joo to care for him, no one else. So, in his unconscious state Jin-woo knew how important it was for him to be with Hee-joo, but he did not know the reason. Min-joo also tells Jin-woo that she has given him a new nickname, the Master, just as The Oracle talks to Neo about being the One.


Is MOTA an allegory? Does it have a meaning? In order to determine whether MOTA has a meaning or not it is necessary to review its symbolism. Ancient Egypt birthed the seven Hermetic Laws of the god Tehuti and teachings of virtues. This too is where we can find knowledge cultivated by secret societies. It is within this information that we decode the meaning of MOTA.

After Jin-woo arrives in Granada to test the game, wearing the lenses, he encounters omens. Jin-woo watches an Aragon Warrior ride up to him on a horse. The Warrior has been shot in the back with six arrows and falls dead from the horse. The horse with its four legs epitomizes a square which is composed of four 90 degree angles. The four angles equal 360 degrees. In Ancient Egypt the square represents the higher and lower nature and signifies the foundation of all knowledge. The warrior riding the horse symbolizes a man that has risen above and overcome his lower nature. The warrior falling off the horse signifies him having succumbed to his lower nature. This omen signifies Jin-woo losing his ability to control his lower nature.

In the drama the number six arises at least three times, if not more: 1. the church bell tolls six times when Jin-woo meets Hee-joo for the first time; 2. The six arrows in the Aragon Warrior's back; 3. Jin-woo's bedroom #601 was on the sixth floor; 4. Jin-woo mentions that he challenged Hyeong-seok six times in preparation for their duel; 5. Jin-woo falls six flights down.

The sixes operate as warnings. In some sacred circles, the sum total 666 equals the lower nature, while in the Bible six is considered a sign of human weakness and sin. In numerology the number six stands for responsibility and service achieved through love, nurturing and protection. Also, it is a belief that the continued appearance of the number six is a sign that a person desires security, stability and family. Jin-woo desires a family, which he has lost. In other circles, the number six relates to problem solving in regards to healing, harmony, home and idealism. Jin-woo wants to solve the glitches in the AR game and find Se-joo.

In the Ancient Egyptian Tree of Life, the sixth sphere, deals with the moral faculty of man and is occupied by the Egyptian god Heru. Heru or Horus's totem is the hawk and Se-joo sent a hawk to Jin-woo with a message regarding a quest. Heru is a divine principle that corresponds to man's will and it is the origin of the word hero. This sphere is governed by the maxim man is made in God's image and controlled by the higher nature. In order for this to be the case, man needs to be free from desire and impulse from his emotions. It is for this reason, man is granted free will. Man is to use his divine nature to resist and control the lower nature of his being. It is in this sphere that Jin-woo fails.

Jin-woo's left leg is severally injured in a fall from the sixth floor of the hostel. After the injury, in the real world, Jin-woo walks with a limp and uses a cane, but in the AR world of the game, after awhile, he gains full function of his left leg. In Ancient Egypt, the Grand Master or vizier to the pharaoh is memorialized in statue with his left leg forward. The Ancients realized that the heart is on the left side and in order for the heart to move forward the left foot has to move forward first to stamp out evil. Jin-woo's leg is injured in the real world symbolizing his inability to fight evil in the real world, but it is fully functional in the AR world. On the train traveling back to Granada after losing track of Secretary Seo, Jin-woo, encounters NPC terrorists. After defeating Hyeong-seok, he looks down at his fully functioning left leg. Also, when seated and after cocking two pistols, he is shown with his left foot forward.

Jin-woo and Hee-joo's actions embody The Principle of Correspondence, "As Above, So Below". They take turns covering each other with the umbrella in the rain and covering each other with blankets. She looks after him when he is sedated and sleeps after being injured and he looks after her when she gets sick from standing in the rain. They both use the same terminology, "damn it" on occasions. In addition, correspondence exists when Hee-joo tells Jin-woo about the condition of the hostel. He ignores it and suffers the consequences. On the other hand, Jin-woo tells Hee-joo not to trust him, that he was not that decent. She ignores that advice and suffers the consequences. Jin-woo "saves" Hee-joo and her family when he purchases the game via buying the hostel. On the other hand, Hee-joo literally saves Jin-woo's life on a few occasions.

Jin-woo entering the Alhambra through the Gate of Justice serves as another omen in that there is a depiction of the Hand of Fatima carved above the entrance. It is said that the five fingers of the hand represent the five pillars of Islam, belief in one God, praying, fasting, alms giving and pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hand of Fatima is used as a talisman for protection and guards against negative influences. The Hand of Fatima normally has an eye on it, like the all-seeing eye.

The five fingers may also represent the 5th Sphere of the Ancient Egyptian Tree of Life, which would have been known by Sufi Muslims, who studied the hieroglyphs. The 5th Sphere like the 6th Sphere deals with moral faculties of man. The 5th Sphere enforces the divine law by the principle, Herukhuti. This principle works off of the Law of Cause and Effect. It has the temperament of a warrior and its purpose is to defend from injustice. This principle supports you as long as you are not guilty of transgressing the principle yourself. Jin-woo is wronged by Hyeong-seok when Hyeong-seok betrays Jin-woo with Jin-woo's first wife. Jin-woo erred when he sought retribution from Hyeong-seok instead of redemption.

Jin-woo's entire life experience reflected the Principle of Rhythm. He grew up without a family, he gained a family through his connection with the Cha's then he loses that family. Also, he experiences a high with his prestige in business only to lose it when he purchases the AR game.

Jin-woo's focus on the Christ figure nailed to the cross foreshadows his sacrifice in order to fix the game. After all of the bugs are deleted, including Zinu and the game is reset, Hee-joo is sitting in the church. The audience is shown stained glass windows with a dove signifying peace and Jesus riding a top a donkey, which represents Jin-woo back on his square having transcended his lower nature.

Jin-woo emphasizes that people will visit Granada to see magic. To the ancients, the key to philosophy and religion is magic. He states that his life goal is to find Se-joo. Considering that Se-joo is the creator of the game, can the audience surmise that Jin-woo is looking for God? Although Jin-woo did not meet Se-joo, he was successful in resetting the game and mastering his lower nature. In essence, Jin-woo found the divine within himself.

Ka El McGee is a life-long student residing in Southern California that enjoys studying ancient and hidden knowledge, genealogy and family history. She can be contacted at


"Memories of the Alhambra" is directed by Ahn Gil-ho, written by Song Jae-jeong, and features Hyun Bin, Park Shin-hye, Park Hoon, Lee Seung-joon, Min Jin-woong, Cho Hyun-chul. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2018/12/01~2019/01/20, Sat, Sun 21:00 on tvN.

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