Anyway, as to Corndog's question, I am 100% convinced the thing in the fog was Ebba's set-up, I think probably without Tomas' knowledge.
I read it as a set-up as well, though I'm not sure if it matters who was involved in the set-up. If it was Ebba, it would be her way of re-establishing peace in the family by letting Tomas reassert his manliness. And he is so pleased with his own manliness, I guess, that he doesn't notice she can get up and walk on her own just fine after he carries her. A wink to the audience that his manliness is a sham. If both Ebba and Tomas were involved, I guess they did it for the children and perhaps for themselves as well, again, reestablishing family peace by reasserting masculine dominance - something they all need to reassure themselves of. The scene, at any rate, indicates they are self-deluded and complicit, in some way, in their own delusion. The utter lack of realism to the scene makes it read like a sort of parable and it made me wonder, in fact, if the whole film was meant to be read as a parable, as there's an air of the surreal and an airlessness over the whole thing (egs. just the lack of people skiing on the mountain, the lack of people anywhere in the halls of the hotel, the janitor as a sort of mythic Watcher/Judge - all those things are odd, unrealistic.)
Force Majeure (2014)
It is a great challenge in cinema to use the tools of the art to ask an interesting question. It is an even greater challenge to answer such a question. Force Majeure does an amazing job establishing the question, centered on a scene where a family, on holiday at a ski resort in France, witnesses a controlled avalanche while eating lunch, and as it seems it might actually put them at risk, the father runs off ahead of his wife and children. This instinctual moment, and the implications it has for both the self-perception of Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and how his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) views him, are potent, cascading drama even to those around them. There's a lot of questions of masculinity bound up in this, on one hand the image of the heroic male who puts women and children first, on the other the male of the wilds who swoops in for mating and swoops out just as fast.
I feel like there is a partial metaphor going on here, in that there is an otherwise kind of baffling sequence involving another woman at the resort who is in some kind of polyamorous relationship who faces a rather blistering line of inquiry from Ebba, who feels rather doubtful about the ability of such openness to not collapse into pain, especially for the children. Is this male instinct being questioned not actually about protecting the family in a time of danger but about his infidelity? And when another couple starts to bicker over whether the man would be braver in the face of the avalanche, is it really an argument over views of fidelity?
Monogamy is not natural enough for the majority of people to successfully practice, yet we have structured families in such a way that when this likely event occurs, we practically demand that it shatter families. It is kind of interesting to think of this film as a family holding things together after infidelity, but I'm not sure it is tight enough as a metaphor to pay off fully.
Of course, if this isn't metaphor, the results are worse as things like the discussion over the woman's polyamory seem like baffling non sequiturs. After such a rousing start, it feels a bit aimless for a large chunk of the second half, at least when it is not giving in to scenes of pretty absurdly overemotional response. I mean, when Tomas ends up in a big tent with a bunch of half-naked guys, is that some sort of reclaiming manhood voyage? When Ebba panics on the bus ride down from the mountains, is that a restoration of the proper order, where women are hysterics? When Tomas decides to accept another man's offer for a cigarette and the film closes on him proudly embracing to his son that he smokes, are we seeing smoking as the ultimate sign of secured masculinity? No, smoking give you cancer you dumb ass. The exploration of masculinity approach gets rather frightening so I guess I'll stick with the slightly frayed monogamy approach.
The polyamorous woman baffled me, too, as I thought the film's primary critique was of the notion of masculinity - but I think its larger critique is of the (supposed) sham of the nuclear family unit, and the critique of masculinity (a concept that is necessary to maintain the classic nuclear family) falls within that larger critique. In the end, the family unit is, the film seems to want to posit, as false as the classic notions of masculinity (where men have to rescue women and children, remain stoic in disasters, where the bar is/should be their kingdom within which they can secure women, and where they rawhr together in frenzies of primordial aggression) - and when the family walks together in slo-mo towards the camera (a very funny shot, btw), after the sham rescue of the ski slope, they feel confident, Tomas's manhood secured, but we know he is/they are ridiculous. I thought the film was going to end there - and had it ended there, I would have thought it was, essentially, a critique of masculinity, and the polyamorous woman a loose end. But it didn't end, and we get the bus scene, where, I think crucially, it is the polyamorous woman, alone, who keeps her head and is not left walking down the cold mountain on her own. She is, in a sense, above the "silly" nuclear family politics, not having to prove anything to anyone or keep anything that is a sham intact. Notably, then, too, the nuclear family walks down the mountain in tatters - none of the four of them in their previous, self-assured unit, each of them solitary, or with someone who is not a family member (Ebba, for example, asks Mats to carry her child, not her husband).
Anyway, I think the film aims to overturn the entire notion of the nuclear family (the notion of masculinity at its center) and replace it with something "better," and frankly, while I think a lot about the film works (the smaller moments which take jabs at masculine posturing, eg. the moment in the bar when Tomas's ego/masculinity is built back up and then crushed within moments with the appreciation and then rejection of the woman), its argument is pretty flimsy, simply asserting that polyamory is the better way, via that polyamorous woman, who insists her children, her husband, and she are all happy and fine with the arrangement, rather than demonstrating it. If the film had tried to argue for something less sweeping and grand - or if it had simply offered a critique rather than a critique and an alternative - it probably would have worked better for me, on the thematic level, that is. (Again, so many small moments were great - loved the acting - and Mats - and that after dinner scene.)