Nine Lives (1957): Norway’s Oscar-Nominated Tale of Survival in WWII

Nine Lives, the Norwegian Oscar-nominated film centers on Jan Baalsrud, a commando member of the Norwegian resistance during World War II.

Ni Liv
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Norwegian classics DVD cover

Trained in Britain, in 1943, he participated in an operation to destroy a German air control tower. This mission was compromised when he and fellow soldiers accidentally made contact with a civilian rather than a Resistance member, who betrayed them to the Nazis.

Directed by Arne Skouen, the film is based on the book “We Die Alone” (1955) by British author David Howarth.

In 1958, the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and was entered into the Cannes Film Fest.

In 1991, Norwegian TV audiences voted it the greatest Norwegian film ever made.

Resistance fighters are attacked by a German vessel, when the Norwegians’ boat contains 8 tons of explosives intended to destroy the air control tower. The commandos explode their payload, and Baalsrud and other survivors flee. They swim ashore in ice cold Arctic waters. Baalsrud is the only one to survive the Nazi roundup– he escapes up a ravine, and and kills a Gestapo officer.

Baalsrud evades capture for two months, during which he suffers from frostbite and snow blindness. He fails to reach the border of neutral Sweden and throws himself on the mercy of some Norwegians who have access to the underground. While hiding in their barn, he amputates his frostbitten toes with a knife due to gangrene.

The fellow Norwegians manage to move Baalsrud close to the Swedish border, but are forced to leave him in a snow cave for two weeks. They then plan to get him over the border by having him transported by a reindeer herder, who gets him across the frontier to safety.

After recuperating in Swedish hospital for seven months, Baalsrud returns to England through South Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and America before rejoining the fight.