There are so many different and varied flavors of the apocalypse film: the bombast and spectacle of a disaster movie à la Roland Emmerich, or the punky desert chic of a “Mad Max” movie. But there’s also the lo-fi take, the kind of stripped-down indie films in which a couple of isolated people experience the apocalypse from afar, with themes of life, death and survival that resonate in a more existential, philosophical register, rather than the action-packed flicks that imagine the end of the world as something more immediate and violent.
Mel Elsyn’s directorial debut, “Biosphere,” fits squarely into this subgenre, in which the apocalypse has already happened off -screen, and we don’t need too much information to get up to speed. The setting and circumstances merely set the stage upon which an intimate moral quandary plays out. The surroundings and events are merely a conduit to pose a “what would you do?” type of question.
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The players are the two inhabitants of a biosphere sealed off from the toxic outside world, a self-sustaining geodesic dome, with a hydroponic garden as a food source. We meet Ray (Sterling K. Brown) and Billy (Mark Duplass) on their morning jog around the dome’s inner perimeter, as Billy lobs questions and theories about the relationship between brothers Mario and Luigi from the Super Mario Bros. games, and Ray calmly volleys back.
This conversation is captured in one long shot around the room, which illustrates both the space and what we’re in for with “Biosphere,” a smart, wordy, esoteric chamber piece infused with references from video games to literature to help underline the relationship between the two men. Ray is the serious, rational one — he’s the scientist who built the dome —