Draught (2022)

There can be no escape without preceding confinement. Like writer/director/DP/editor/set designer Wes Terray’s previous feature Precarious (2020), his short film Draught is a flight of fancy set in an enclosed, hermetic world. That world is a backroom of the Queensland National Bank Limited, where an accountant (Jasmine Yohai) works alone into the wee hours, confined not just by her lace Victorian shirt and tightly bound hair, but by the narrow interior of her office. That, and also the surrounding buildings, and the dressmaker’s shopfront and road below, have all been lovingly modelled in a single loft space, so that this urban nocturne comes with its own artifice. For it is locked-in location, like the studio tableaux of Roy Andersson’s later works, where height and depth and space itself are merely illusions, in fact constructed with doll’s house sets and false perspectives.


Draught opens on a pretty red dress (with a price tag) in the shop window downstairs, with its bright colour, its floral design, and the sandy floor on which it has been posed, all suggestive of an exotic allure. It is the kind of elegant piece that no doubt would have attracted the eye of the accountant on her way into work – but now the shop is being closed for the night. Several floors above, poring over calculations, the accountant rubs her eyes with weariness, stretches her neck, takes a break to look out the window at the streetcar stopping below and then at a map of the United States on the wall (both with their respective promise of getting away). Finally she glances at a framed photo of two imperious looking boys, takes a pill from a pillbox, drifts off, and lets the sands of time wash over her, as a dream coming from within opens up her straitened space into a vast, overwhelming desert. 

The title of this short film can denote a current of air that wafts into an enclosed space, or an early version of an as yet incomplete work. Draught makes both readings available, as it ever so gradually gives the accountant’s claustrophobic workplace its own room to breathe, and as it lets the filmmaker experiment with tones in preparation for a forthcoming feature. It is also, in its own right, a work of compact beauty, finding in its microscopic fetishisation of textures and objects the inspiration for heady, oneiric escapism. At its melancholic heart, though, lie boundless loneliness and loss, ending in a transformative fantasy of apocalyptic aridity and annihilation.

strap: Wes Terray’s heady, hermetic short lets an accountant working alone in an office late at night escape into the sands of time

© Anton Bitel