Obviously, this is my own interpretation of the scene. It is not perfect, some words might be wrong and some sentences might sound weird, but keep in mind that English is not my first language. There might be some spoilers, I guess.
FILM TITLE: Night of the Living Dead
DIRECTOR: George A. Romero
SCENE TITLE: Barricading the house
IN TIME: 21:52
OUT TIME: 24:32
Barbara slowly enters the room where the fireplace is. There, she finds a music box that starts playing its melody. Barbara looks at it.
At the same time, Ben is busy finding wood to barricade the windows and doors.
Barbara takes some useless little sticks of wood from the fireplace. She goes back to the room where Ben is (the kitchen, I think). When Ben sees her with the little sticks of wood, he lets out a little laugh, unimpressed. Barbara puts the sticks on the fridge. Ben is barricading a window with a wooden door. Barbara goes to him and helps him hold the door still. Every time Ben hits the hammer on the nails, Barbara looks very disturbed and somewhat scared or like she is about to cry, panicked.
Ben then takes a little box full of nails and asks Barbara to pick the biggest nails she can find.
- Dutch-angle shot / long shot as Barbara walks into the room
- Non-diegetic sound: dramatic music
- Diegetic sounds: crickets
- Extreme close-up of a hunting trophy (a wild boar’s head I think)
- Crane shot from the wild boar’s head to Barbara (high shot), and from Barbara to the music box (high shot).
- The camera zooms in a little as Barbara puts her hand on the music box
- Deep-focus: the music box in the front, Barbara in the back
- Focus on Barbara
- Diegetic sound: the music box’s lullaby and crickets
- Non-diegetic sound: the dramatic music from before becomes more intense, almost disturbing
- Extreme close-up of the music box. Through its panels, we see Barbara’s eyes and forehead. The focus is on her.
- Dutch-angle shot / long shot of Ben holding a wooden door.
- Dutch-angle shot / medium shot of Ben in the kitchen
- Diegetic sound: Ben is moving stuff around
- Non-diegetic sound: the dramatic music
- Dutch-angle shot / almost hand-held feel of Ben moving stuff around
- Medium shot or Barbara
- Diegetic sound: crickets and Ben moving stuff around
- Zoom out
- Long shot / low angle shot of Barbara picking up wood from the fireplace
- Low-key lighting / Barbara’s shadow projected on the wall behind her
- Barbara walks out of the frame
- Close-up of Ben
- Hand-held camera feel
- Medium shot of Barbara entering the kitchen
- Close-up on Ben’s face
- Medium close-up on Ben
- Medium shot of Barbara
- Medium shot of Ben trying to fix the door over the window
- Medium shot of Barbara walking in Ben’s direction
- Two-shot of Ben barricading the window and Barbara walking in the frame to come and help him / deep-focus: Ben in the front, Barbara almost hidden behind him
- Close-up on Ben hammering the door to the window frame
- Close-up on Barbara, wondering what to do
- Diegetic sound: the hammer hitting the nail
- Non-diegetic sound: dramatic music
- Close-up of the hammer hitting the nail
- Zoom out to two-shot / deep-focus of Ben and Barbara (Ben in front). Ben moves and the two characters are now on the same level
- Close-up / zooming in and out on Barbara, as she seems disturbed by the hammer’s noise
- Two-shot of Barbara and Ben, deep focus with Barbara in the front
- Medium shot / medium close-up of Ben as Barbara walks out of the frame
- Medium shot of Ben, he is back-facing the camera and turns around
- Two-shot of Ben and Barbara, Ben handing the box of nails to Barbara, telling her to find the biggest ones
- Close-up on Barbara’s distressed face
Analysis and Interpretation
Barbara goes to the room where the fireplace is, and she finds a music box. I believe that this music box could represent her childhood innocence, something that she is slowly loosing during the movie. I think that since the music box is associated with childhood, it makes her think of her brother, another thing that she loses in the movie. It could also represent that Barbara is slowly loosing her sanity.
I believe that the act of barricading the windows and doors can be a reminder of the Vietnam War. This war was pretty violent towards innocent people, civilians, and I believe that many of them tried to lock themselves in their houses, to gain some kind of a protection from the invaders. I am certain that during wartime, Vietnamese people were terrified by the idea of the US Army, and it is pretty understandable; the US Army did terrible things to civilians. On the other side though, I guess that the US Army was also scared of the Vietnamese. After all, they were also pretty violent. I think that by locking themselves in, Barbara and Ben portray the fear of the enemy in wartime.
Another element that reminded me of war in this scene is when the hammer hits the nail and Barbara looks distressed. The sound of the hammer hitting the nail could sound, or at least remind us of a gunshot. This could also remind us of all the political assassinations (successful or not) that took place in the 60’s.
War is also present in the room with the fireplace. In this room are a couple of hunting trophies and I think that hunt and war can be seen as pretty similar on some aspects. Of course, hunting is seen more as an entertainment activity, but the purpose of both is pretty much the same: killing, overpowering the other. Plus, during wartime, propaganda tends dehumanize the enemy, to portray them as beasts, almost. According to me, propaganda makes war feel like a gigantic hunting party.
Sometimes, the camera movement feels as if it was hand-held, which gives us a documentary-ish feeling. The Vietnam war was the first one in which the medias were involved so much. Photos, films, and clips were shown on television and through the world. The fact that the movie sometimes gives us this documentary feel can remind us of the new bulletins and clips from the war; the media’s importance in these years, and still today.
In the first sequence of the scene, when Barbara finds the music box, the camera is pretty much above her head and it almost feels as if we were spying on her. This can refer to the paranoia that came with the war, the fear of being spied on by the enemy. It feels as if Barbara is a prey and that we are ready to hunt her down. As I mentioned before, there are hunting trophies in the room, animals that once were prays themselves.
Another moment when Barbara looks like a prey is when she stands up after picking up the little pieces of wood from the fireplace. Because of the low-key lighting, her shadow is projected on the wall behind her and looks very imposing. It looks as if the shadow in itself was a threat to Barbara’s security. I don’t know if this is really what George A. Romero meant, but this scene kind of reminds me or harassment or rape. A person who’s been a victim of either of them will often be marked by it forever and feel a constant threat around them. Our shadow is constantly with us, just like this threat in the victim’s mind.
Many sequences in this scene are filmed using Dutch-angle shots. Dutch-angle shots are shots in which the camera is a little bit tilted, giving us an unstable feeling. The sequences using this type of angle are used to demonstrate Ben and Barbara’s edgy situation and emotional state.