Tangent: Impossible Dream, With Subtitles

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23 April 2022
· In a little-seen Spanish film, Willy travels to La Mancha and writes ‘Othello’ with Cervantes ·

Of all the posts on this blog, the one with by far the most views is Henry IV and the Holy Grail. A couple of mentions on /r/todayilearned/ will do that. I mention it here because that post contains my first effort at playing with an SRT file, the standard format these days for the subtitle text of a corresponding video. Recently I made my second SRT, this time for the 2007 Spanish film Miguel y William.

Cervantes and Shakspere, sharing the screen. If in all the years since the film was made you’ve never heard of it, it is likely because (per IMDb) it was never released in an Anglophone country. This seems odd when one of its main characters is Putative Mr Glory Of The English Language himself, but if the worldwide box-office is any indication, even the Spaniards found Miguel y William a hard nut to swallow.

It didn’t stop me from paying too many Euros to a chap in Ibiza for a used DVD. Curiosity costs.
Miguel y William, DVD case front coverCall it Shakspere Enamorado. Like its Hollywood forebearAll, Miguel y William is a feel-good fable. Buy the ticket, take the ride. It begins circa 1590 (that’s a guess, the year isn’t given) with Willy running off once again. His London leman Leonor, a Spanish merchant’s daughter, has gone home to Castile to marry a wealthy nobleman far more odious than Colin Firth. Unabashed, Willy follows. Sub rosa romance resumes, the Spanish Inquisition arrives as expected, and Willy’s trouble at the (wind) mill with an obstreperous burro puts an idea into the head of his rival poet, the local tax collector and unsuccessful writer Miguel de Cervantes. The monstrous Duque’s jealousy imperils Leonor (no his eyes are not green, such a missed opportunity), and the two authors collaborate to speed-write Othello, setting up the film’s climax. The music comes from the same composer who won an Oscar for his Shakespeare In Love score.

Going to Spain at that time was like going to New York or perhaps Shanghai now. It was the centre of things, so it would have made a lot of sense. Our story is something of a fiction based on facts, but it certainly could have happened.

–Antonio Sauro, producer, Miguel y William [1]

Producers are naturally given to hyperbole when promoting their projects, but the only thing La Mancha was the centre of at that time was the windswept Castilian hinterlands. And certainly could have is the sort of self-negating oxymoron used to defuse the petard with which the speaker would otherwise self-hoist.
In neither English nor Spanish is Miguel y William as witty as its popular predecessor– Tom Stoppard is a hard act to follow in any language. Otherwise, for a hallucinated Shakespeare story it’s not unwatchable. Its romantic conceit gives it a sweetness not found in the likes of the silly Bill or the downmarket Upstart Crow, if one allows for the never-mentioned missus and moppets back in Warwickshire. I’m not one to chide a man for infidelity, even Willy.

Sensibilities alert: if you are likely to take umbrage at the sight of a shirtless, beturbaned, scimitar-wielding white actor in brown body paint, as he portrays an Englishman portraying a caricaturedBy writer/director Inés París, not by me. My Othello was a tragic figure but no caricature. Moor in a play staged within a film set in a place and time wherein Islam was an existential enemy (just ask Cervantes), don’t say you weren’t warned. Spain and EnglandArmada©National Maritime Museum weren’t on the best of terms either, but never mind.

The Spanish dialogue contains occasional bits of English with hard-coded Spanish subtitles, but the DVD lacks an all-English dubbed audio track. Optional English subtitles are included, but the text was such a pixellated eyesore that I decided to upgrade it. I didn’t bother to change the words, I just made them look better.

Subtitles, IDX vs SRTSubtitle sample, before and after

Here is my improved SRT [right click, save-link-as] for anyone who obtains their own video and knows how to enable an added subtitle track. If that’s not you, no pierdas el sueñodon’t lose any sleep. Miguel y William has its amusements but you aren’t missing much beyond Iberian landscapes, pointy hairstyles, and a brush-up of your castellano. If you want to hunt for a DVD I’ve put a couple of possibilities in the Sources following the post. If any are available, you will overpay.

As far as I have been able to determine, my SRT is the only subtitle file for this film, in English or any other language, presently available on the internet. Considering Stratfordian cinematic fantasies in general (there are so many), the potential for future subtitular drollery should be obvious. Monty Python was only the beginning. Think of all those Downfall parodies.


• An even more impossible dream (if that’s possible) by a thieving Catalonian enabled me to fabricate find the hidden code proving my Quixotic identity. Hostage to Catalonia, posted 21 February 2021.

• A dream of a different sort. A Late Summer Afternoon’s Daydream, posted 13 August 2017.

• A wake-up call to the dreamers in Warwickshire: Limerick 2: Sui Generis My Foot, posted 8 February 2016.ADDITIONAL READING/VIEWING

[1] Source of the quote by Miguel y William’s producer. There’s more where that came from.

[note 1 return]

• A couple of leads for hunting used Miguel y William DVDs:

· dvddeocasion.com

· amazon.es