Berlin: What the “Luminous” and Unexpected Solo Journey of One of the Most Fascinating Characters in la Casa de Papel Is Like

After sustained success for five seasons, such as La casa de papel , the question is: How can we tackle a spin off that lives up to what fans expect? And when faced with such a doubt, the answer that the Berlin creators found was to tell something totally different but that seems the same .

With the premiere on Netflix this Friday of the prequel focused on one of the most emblematic characters of the original series, its creators, Alex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato, imagined what the worldwide legion of fans of La casa de papel could like , and offer them a new show that mixed comedy, romanticism and, of course, an impossible robbery.

“For me,” says Pina, “equalizing three tones like the robbery, the robbery genre, with romanticism and comedy, has been complicated. That is, to reach a breath of fresh air, to this freshness, to this lightness that the series seems to be easy. You let yourself go, you give yourself over to watching it with a very playful, very vital and very hedonistic vocation for entertainment in some way and, however, behind it there is a complicated scaffolding of engineering, writing and, of course, filming and post-production. But having achieved something that seems very easy is, for me, what we can be most proud of in the series.”

Martínez Lobato, on the other hand, emphasizes that, despite the complications, it was the natural path to continue enjoying the universe of La casa de papel : “Also, I think it is due to a vital moment where we felt that we wanted to do something bright.” , something that was practically seen in the family. Something that wouldn’t throw anyone away. Something that you would like to see. The trip that Berlin proposes is very beautiful, it is very comfortable and it is very comforting, as well as fun. Each product is like a child of its time, where we came from making others that were perhaps darker, with more tension, with more violence and that implied another series of emotions. Suddenly we had the need to open the doors to that Paris, to that beauty, to that air and that light, and we really like that it is a comfortable series. That it can be seen and that one does not feel startled, or attacked, or feel violence, but quite the opposite. Let it be very comfortable and very pleasant to see.”

The value of your jewelry
Despite the good intentions of the couple of creators, the truth is that to develop this “luminous” and “playful” product, they took the most sinister character from the original product as a base. Until now, Berlin ( Pedro Alonso ) was far from being an empathetic character for the audience; On the contrary, the fascination that his figure provoked while he was part of La casa de papel was due to his cynicism and his lack of foolproof limits.

In this prequel that bears his name (or rather, his nickname), the protagonist has undergone several changes in relation to his lack of scruples. Although he continues to be a mastermind, who is almost always several steps ahead of the rest, the tone of the proposal is less violent and aggressive.

The story, as happened in Money Heist , finds him with a gang ready to carry out a master scam. Supporting the criminal is Keila (Michelle Jenner), an expert in computer science and cybersecurity and a social phobic; Damián (Tristán Ulloa), engineer and professor, the only one capable of giving Berlin points due to the enormous friendship that unites them; Cameron (Begoña Vargas), a girl willing to do anything but with a past that makes her emotionally unstable; Roi (Julio Peña Fernández), as intelligent as he is violent, an expert in breaking locks and an admirer of his boss; and Bruce (Joel Sánchez), very simple, playful, someone who doesn’t take anything seriously, except his work. Also, but no longer part of the gang, there is Camille (Samantha Siqueiros), a woman with whom Berlin falls in love, and for whom he would even be capable of abandoning the path of crime.

The narrative arc of the proposal begins with the plan to steal jewelry worth 44 million euros stored in the impenetrable vault of a Parisian auction house, as well as the consequences for each of those involved, both personally and emotionally. professional.

In relation to the tone in which they have converted his character, the actor Pedro Alonso, as it could not be otherwise, defends it tooth and nail: “At the beginning there was a lot of talk about a brighter Berlin, at the end of the day It’s the past, but that can be dangerous, that suddenly life is happy and doesn’t matter. But living in a joyful way is an exercise of enormous risk because you have to put in a lot of your part, but the wonderful thing is that then it seems like there is no effort. There is a phrase by Johan Cruyff (Dutch player and coach), that even if you don’t like football, can be extrapolated to any area: ‘Football is very easy, anyone can play football. But making it easy is very difficult.’ This is the same, what we have shot is about the joy of living and it has to look easy, but behind it it has an endless number of sticks so that it is supported and light.”

Among those “sticks”, the longest and most complex to keep in balance was to take his character to an intermediate tone, between the creators’ new search with that shark with which you could swim but you were never calm: “He heard many times that Berlin is a cynic. Not at all. He is sarcastic, has diabolical black humor and can be very stupid, interesting and everything you want, but not cynical. He is a man who cannot stand cynicism, he believes that the world is cynical. He lives dissociated, convinced that this dissociation is fine, so he does not believe in normal life. But he seeks to live in a kind of first mythology where emotion flows like volcanoes. That cynicism and coldness that I have heard that is sometimes associated with the character has nothing to do, at least with what I process inside. He is a man determined to rediscover the great life, falling in love above common sense and logic. So this man is made to love, despite everything.”

A complex and suffocating shoot

Filmed mostly in Paris, and then moving on to Madrid, Almería, León, Segovia and Toledo, the director takes advantage of each of the real settings to provide an imposing framework for the fiction. The realism of the settings is consistent with what the story tells, and becomes a key element to enhance emotions and action, as well as helps to get rid of previous iconography. The director of photography, Miguel Amoedo, explains what the biggest challenge of this conceptual change was: “After the international success of La casa de papel , it was really very complicated to face the design of Berlin’s visual identity. It was a process of intellectual and conceptual dispossession and sentimental dispossession as well. We had to understand that we were not going to have red jumpsuits, nor Dalí masks, nor ‘Bella Ciao’. We had to conceptually refound the new series and find its own universe, its own color palette and its own visual style.”

“So we said ‘Let’s see, what do we have? What are we left with? What do we have left?’ We have Berlin left, we are doing this series because of Berlin’s magnetic personality, so we are going to make him our guide, our compass, and on a visual level I began to base myself on what Berlin’s new vital moment meant. We faced a new character that we had seen locked up in Money Heist with a feeling, on the one hand from ‘Tempus fugit’ and on the other hand from ‘Memento mori’, due to his terminal illness and here we wanted to make a diametrical twist to the character and finding a space of light, of vitality, that led us to a ‘Carpe diem’”, adds Amoedo.

However, theory is one thing and practice is another. And the entire team discovered it when they had to face one of the most complicated sequences, the one in the catacombs, which starts everything. In the plot it is the first step on the path that will lead them to the millionaire treasure, in reality, a headache. “A great challenge,” says executive producer Cristina López Ferraz, “was the construction and filming in the catacombs. When we located the actual catacombs of Paris, we realized that it wasn’t going to be feasible to film in them. Finally, the result is more spectacular: the sensation of humidity and of being many meters underground is greater than in the real thing. Another big challenge was that they had to be flooded. Migue Amoedo, Visual Designer and Director of Photography from Vancouver, loves to play with water reflections in different interiors; He already did it in the storm pool of La casa de papel. The production team is upset, but we must admit that the result is worth it.”

Tristán Ulloa ( Open your eyes , Lucía and sex , Narcos ), who plays Berlin’s partner and friend – and who some mistakenly compare to The Professor – also remembers the difficulties of those days of filming: “Filming all the scenes , especially the catacomb scenes, has been one of the most intense things I have done in my career. I have a dust allergy, and there was a time when they threw things at us that floated in the air, the water that dripped, cold, it was December, it was just before Christmas. I caught influenza A. One day when we were on set I took my temperature and it was 40 degrees, and it was like that day after day. Until I had to leave because I physically couldn’t anymore. It’s just that we are making Steven Spielberg, we are making very, very elevated, very fine cinema, you know? All the sets have been treated with great rigor in photography, decoration, and lighting. The thing about the catacombs, those skulls, is faithfully recreated from the catacombs of Paris. Perhaps the most difficult thing has been the issue of water, because we have been cold, very cold, and no matter how much you put on the wetsuit, there was always a moment in which you were cold, and then, changing between takes and taking, drying off and Well, in the end, half of the team fell, that is, normal.”

Criminal and family

Eight episodes, nine months of filming, an international technical team, a soundtrack that ranges from a version of “Felicidad” by Al Bano to “Como yo te amo” by Raphael, performed by the actors. All elements combined with the intention of rekindling the sacred fire that La casa de papel ignited in 2017; maybe, who knows, for more than one season. An enormous challenge, resolved through a script with the necessary effects (and several winks), a sustained rhythm, and the surprise of some familiar faces from the previous project.

According to Alex Pina, the possibilities are endless: “When you have an acid character, deeply unstable, like Berlin, who changes and where his levels of darkness are as great as his positive levels, what you have in the end is a combination . On the one hand, a guy who has a series of very clear values ​​in terms of loyalty and in terms of many things, family, friendship, etc. But you can also go to the other side, he is very unstable. It’s like those chemical things. That makes the character good everywhere, that is, if you give him a robbery he is good and if you give him a family, as a family man he will also be good, because he generates good conflicts. If you give him romance, if you give him a crush, he’s good too, right? When you have a good character who works in 360 degrees, you can give him everything, and I think that making a sentimental comedy with Berlin is fascinating because he changes constantly, he has enormous levels of passion for the good, and bad blood for the bad. ”.

And Esther Martínez Lobato completes: “The packaging in this case is love, robberies, beauty, the absence of guns. But we really do what we always do, which are stories of characters who make a very painful journey in a setting or in an adventure, such as in this case a robbery, where they grow in some way and where they have a lot of space to talk about what they “they feel.”

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