Maria-Victoria Dragus was born in 1994 and studied ballet at The Palucca University of Dance Dresden. After appearing in a few minor television roles, such as the children's series An Angel for All (2007) and Bernd Böhlich’s tragicomedy, You're Not Alone (2007), Dragus entered the international spotlight with her supporting role in Michael Haneke’s drama, The White Ribbon, for which she earned the German Film Award in 2010 for Best Supporting Actress. In 2011, she performed as the sister of Red Army Faction terrorist Gudrun Ensslin in Andres Veiel’s film If Not Us, Who?, followed by playing the female lead in Emily Atef's Kill Me, for which she was named Best Actress at the 2012 Romanian International Film Festival.
In 2014, she starred in the mini-series Tannbach, directed by Andreas Dierbach, as well as in Christian Schwochow’s Pfeiler der Macht. Dragus then performed in the 2016 Palme d’Or-winning film, Bacalaureat (Graduation), directed by Christian Mungiu. Her upcoming films include Tiger Girl, directed by Jakob Lass, and In Cold Water, directed by Ramond Ley. She speaks Romanian and English fluently.
On what inspired her to act as a child:
My dad works at a theater as a musician in an orchestra, so I was confronted with music and performing from a very early age. I think I started out in the children's choir when I was seven. Some of my favorite operas were La Bohème, Carmen, and Hansel and Gretel. Later I started dancing and, eventually, acting. But the very moment I decided to become an actor was when I was in Cannes in 2009 and saw The White Ribbon for the first time. It was then that I realized how big the impact of acting in a great story can be.
On getting cast in The White Ribbon as Klara:
When I got the casting call for The White Ribbon, I didn't even know who [Michael] Haneke was. I was this small-town girl, living in a boarding school and studying ballet full-time, so when I was selected to play Klara, I had no idea what was going to happen. Mister Haneke always had a very clear vision of what he wanted from his actors, and I enjoyed that very much. I was used to getting clear directions in ballet school, so that made his way of working very accessible for me. I knew precisely what he wanted to happen in each scene…. I also received a lot of great advice from [the late] Susanne Lothar, whom I very much looked up to. She helped me ease into this exciting, new world I was just introduced to. After all, I was just 14 years old.
On how she prepared for her role in Graduation:
Well, working with Cristian Mungiu was a dream come true! I had admired his work for a very long time, and I felt so honored to be a part of this experience. I think every new role is a new challenge, and that's what I enjoy about my job—the diversity. In this case, I guess I was a little anxious if the audience would believe that I was a girl who grew up in Romania. But I always felt more Romanian than German, so that helped. And I could connect to it very easily as soon as I understood that the father-daughter relationship was actually the core that I had to concentrate on. Cristian also made it possible for me to meet a girl who had actually been the victim of an assault; I met her and it was very moving.
On what’s ahead for her in 2017:
Next year, I will have a couple of interesting films coming out. One is called Light, directed by Barbara Albert, which is set in Vienna in 1776. I play a young blind woman, Maria Theresia Paradis, who is a promising pianist and who eventually starts to see again after she tries out a revolutionary healing method. ★