You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.
Elizabeth Taylor in The Driver’s Seat (1974), in which she plays a lonely and strange woman named Lise who has detached herself from society, and who goes on vacation to Rome to find a man. But she doesn’t go looking for love or a romantic affair: she searches for a man who will stab her to death.
Widely panned and mocked by critics upon release, the movie (unfairly) faded into obscurity. Liz filmed the movie during her divorce from Richard Burton, and during filming told the director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi; “It takes one day to die, another to be reborn.”
However, Lise is a character who has completely abandoned, or has been abandoned by, humanity and decides to rid herself of own her life by searching for a man who will take it from her. Rather than classic Hollywood tales of finding romance in Rome, The Driver’s Seat subverts this by portraying a self-destructive and completely detached woman who is averse to, and even disgusted by, romance and sex and who wants only death.
Liz is also totally unlike her glamorous Old Hollywood persona in this film. She is not afraid to look unattractive, garish, crazy, scary, aggressive, and mentally unhinged, and she puts her all into her performance. In the scene depicted above, Lise applies makeup not to appeal to those around her, but rather cakes it on like a form of war paint to make herself stand apart from others. And it works: the people around her often remark about her deranged appearance. However, Lise revels in her alienation and doesn’t seem to care anymore.
Ultimately, Lise finds peace only in her own self destruction and demise. This is a movie that can often be campy and darkly humorous at times, but also one that is a disturbing yet honest portrait of a distraught and unhinged woman who has lost her sense of self, and it is one of Liz Taylor’s great forgotten roles.
“I think if you were born with privileges—or given privileges—then you should share them. Like money—it’s to share. I’ve known too many people who just sat and hoarded and were miserable. Just miserable SOBs. I have always believed that giving is one of the reasons that we were put on this earth. I’ve acted on that belief since I was old enough to leave my nest…” - Elizabeth Taylor