One frame, one moment in a movie can speaks volumes.
Today, Java's Journey studies a frame from The Clock (1945), a WWII drama about a soldier on leave and the woman he meets, starring Judy Garland and Robert Walker, directed by Vincente Minnelli.
Spoiler warning: This article reveals important plot points.
A Bit of the Story
A milkman, Al Henry (James Gleason), invites a soldier and his date for breakfast.
The soldier is named Joe (Walker). He's on leave and contemplates marriage to his date Alice (Garland), whom he has known for less than 24 hours.
This frame pulls together many of Joe's hopes and dreams into one moment.
Throughout the film up to this point, Joe has expressed the desire for his own home, a wife and simply to survive the war to get back to these goals. At the Henry house, he sees his dreams fulfilled in another couple.
The group is paired off by gender. Alice helps Mrs. Henry (Lucile Gleason) to prepare breakfast. The two men are in the background, but the focus is on Joe; he's in the middle of the frame.
Joe doesn't say anything here, but by pairing off the genders, the movie encourages us to concentrate on Joe's desire to be an older married man like Mr. Henry, with Alice as his version of Mrs. Henry, and to live in his own home in peace.
Should he marry a woman he's only just met? Does he have the "right" to ask any woman to marry him and share his responsibilities? Should he seize the moment since anything can happen in the future?
These themes are central to the story and are encapsulated in an instant.
When he is deployed tomorrow, he may never return, truncating any plans of growing old. Because the movie ends with the soldier leaving town, the story leaves the audience with many of the same questions Joe has- will he achieve all of his goals? We will never know.
Still, Joe has had a taste of the life he wants, if only for a moment.