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Film / Nine Lives (1957)

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Nine Lives is a Norwegian feature film made in 1957, made by director Arne Skouen. The film is Based on a True Story, and tells the story of war hero Jan Baalsrud, who made it out of Norway alive after a failed attempt to smuggle weapons to the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II. Their primary goal was to blow up the airport at Bardufoss in the county of Troms. All of his crew members were shot, and Baalsrud himself escaped, severely wounded, and developed gangrene in his feet, as well as snow blindness. Nevertheless, he was helped over the border to Swedish Lapland, where he rejoined the resistance fight. The movie tells the story of this hazardous escape. It is considered one of the most epic movies ever made in Norway.


The movie contains examples of these tropes:

  • Agony of the Feet: Jan has to slice off his own frostbite toes.
  • All There in the Manual: The Book of the Film, of course. The fact that the actual goal for the operation is Bardufoss airport, is never stated in the film.
  • Based on a True Story: Jan Baalsrud wrote a book of his experience, which Arne Skouen used for good measure, as well as advice from Baalsrud himself. The beginning of the movie lampshades it by stating that Baalsrud got a lot of help, but the people who helped him were so many that the movie was unable to record them all. Therefore, a couple like Agnes and Martin are composite characters.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The sami who eventually found Baalsrud minutes before he gave in and shot himself.
  • Book-Ends: The movie begins and ends in the hospital in northern Sweden where Baalsrud got treatment for his wounds.
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  • Casual Danger Dialogue. It is, after all, a war movie.
  • Composite Character: Very likely in the case of Agnes and Martin, and several others. The sheer amount of people who actually helped Baalsrud would make the movie overly long.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Martin's father, who knows his son better than Martin expected. Martin helps Baalsrud, and explains to his father that he is making booze. His father covers for him by making the booze himself, because people actually asked for it.
    • Also the old teacher in the local school, making the classroom a hotspot for information. Even more awesome when he gets information from the resistance while having the room full of children, who actually sings rather loudly to cover the low-key discussion between the teacher and the resistance man. What a way to use a busy school day.
  • Danger Deadpan: All the way. Baalsrud himself, and also Martin the farmer when a blinded Baalsrud cocks his gun at him:
    If you shoot now, you won`t miss.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Both the old teacher, organizing the efforts to rescue Baalsrud, as well as Baalsrud himself after four weeks under a crevice in the mountains.
  • Determinator: Baalsrud had a lot of chances to just drift off and die. He lived to tell the tale
  • Disaster Dominoes: Consider that an entire action movie hinges on the hero accidentally knocking on the wrong door. Which leads to the alerted Germans, the whole mission going awash, and then the dramatic flight covering the rest of the movie.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Especially when Baalsrud orders his companions to leave a knife behind in case the doctor will be late for a surgery on his legs. When they ask him why he can`t use his gun, he answers calmly:
    My gun has only six shots. I need nine!
    • He had nine injured toes to get rid of.
  • Enemy Within: Discussed when meeting the unwitting cobbler Hansen (who later betrays them). He has recently been given a flyer which warns him that "any contact with the enemy will be punished by death". The resistance men immediately ask him:
    Who is the enemy? And who are we?
  • Epic Fail: When the resistance men get to shore, they are adviced to search for a cobbler named Hansen. Unfortunately, that name is the most common name in Norway, and the man they encounter is not the man they seek. The right one is already arrested, and this cobbler is a coward who betrays them. Tragedy ensues.
  • Faceless Goons: The Wehrmacht soldiers. All of their faces are obscured, and they are all seen at a distance.
    • Arne Skouen played this straight in this movie, but had subverted it earlier on, by showing at least one German soldier scared to pieces, making him almost sympathetic. Here, their human traits are almost non-existent.
  • The Film of the Book: Lampshaded in the opening credits. The book was called We Die Alone, and was written by David Howarth in 1955, relating the actual Baalsrud story. The title Nine Lives stems from the Norwegian edition. True to form, Howarth co-wrote the script along with Arne Skouen.
  • Flat "Yes": Underlining the badassery of Agnes, wife of Martin, who sheltered Baalsrud and arranged for his hiding-place in the mountains. When none of them have been able to get to Baalsrud for at least two weeks because of bad weather, Martin decides to check on him. Agnes volunteers to follow him. Martin states the obvious:
    Martin: You are aware we have do get a dead man down?
    Agnes: Yes.
  • Framing Device: The story is framed by Jan, in a Swedish hospital, giving his report to a woman from the Norwegian government in exile.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Baalsrud after four weeks alone in the wilderness cracks for a time, and is almost Driven to Suicide.
  • Handicapped Badass: Baalsrud had to cut off his own toes to prevent gangrene to spread through the rest of his foot. The movie shows him walking without help as the end credits go.
    • A long sequence shows Baalsrud, unable to walk because of his gangrene, lying alone in a mountain cave, waiting for the people who are meant to carry him to Sweden. As they give up several times, Baalsrud hangs on, even surviving a blizzard which buries him completely.
    • Baalsrud also managed to fight at the end of the war, coming down in Norway with a parachute, having kept only two of his toes.
  • Laughing Mad: In a rather disturbing part of the film. Baalsrud is losing his wits, hallucinating, and sees himself without legs approaching. He shoots the image with his gun, and slips into a wild, eerie laughing fit.
    Now the coffin carriers are coming! Now they will drag him away and lower him to his grave...
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Baalsrud has been shot in the foot, and have a bandage around it. Then, the bright light in the snowy mountains makes him snow blind, and he has to use said bandage to cover his eyes. Ergo - he has to choose between his eyes and his toes. He chose his eyesight and sacrificed the toes.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Many, many times as the story unfolds, starting in the first scene, when Baalsrud in the hospital (set after the actual story), shrugs off the woman from England with a "nothing to worry about" to hold off her concern. For the record, he has recently cut off eight of his toes himself. Nothing to worry about?
  • Mood Whiplash: From downer to joy, when it turns out Baalsrud actually survived the blizzard, and responds after Martin has uncovered him. The scene also doubles as one of the funniest moments in the entire movie, with Baalsrud just lying flat on his back, almost covered in snow. Martin states:
    He is dead.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The scene where Baalsrud is forced to cut off his own toes with a knife. Not one single wound is shown - we only see the time lapse, and his hand gripping hard on the bedside. When it is all over, Baalsrud collapses in bed, cued by a shrill fanfare from the score. Badass indeed.
  • Oh, Crap!: The visual reaction from Baalsrud and his accomplice when cobbler Hansen reveals that "they took Hansen that were here before me". Followed by this rather punctuated line:
    "What - did you just say?"
  • Rated M for Manly: Obviously.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Baalsrud got himself a pair of skis, and one scene has him skiing downhill, not being able to slow down. A German army unit passes the road he is on, putting them straight in his way. Baalsrud`s solution is not slowing down, just yelling "GANGWAY" at the top of his lungs. The Germans actually opened up for him and let him pass, only to have some of them make a Double Take, and the rest of them having a fit of laughter. CMOA meets CMOF.
  • Sanity Slippage: When the men who are meant to carry him to Sweden continously fail to find him, Baalsrud started to hallucinate, and was almost ready to shoot himself when help finally arrived.
  • Sole Survivor: The resistance crew were mowed down by german machine guns. Baalsrud barely survived.
  • Smurfette Principle: Three female actors, with Agnes (Henny Moan) getting most of the attention. The two others are a midwife, and the female reporter at the hospital.
  • Stunned Silence: The woman who was supposed to wrote down Baalsrud`s story for the record, is seen with her sheet completely blank at the end of the movie. She has not been able to write down anything.
  • Title Drop: When the doctor comes to tend to Baalsrud, his companions jab: "He`s like a cat, he has nine lives!"
    • Later, in the mountain, when he has to be buried out of a snow drift, still unable to move: "You have even more lives, Jan!"
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Wehrmacht soldiers are seen in many scenes, usually searching for Baalsrud. He shoots at least one of them.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The '80s action movie Orion`s Belt made a point of copying most of the plot in a Cold War setting (making the hero stumble his way through the desolation of Svalbard). When that movie was spoofed by the Norwegian KLM trio, this even got lampshaded:
    Jan Baalsrud was lucky, he only lost his toes!


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